On his way out the door at Washington State, Mike Leach helped pick his replacement. You shouldn't have to be told that usually doesn't happen during coaching searches. Usually, the departing coach is in the school plane to his next job before the ink is dry on the new contract.
But this is Wazzu, and that was Leach.
Before leaving for Mississippi State in January, Leach was asked by his former boss what he thought of Hawaii's Nick Rolovich.
"Mike's a good person," Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said. "Even talking with him, we ran our candidate pool by him. When it got all said and done, he said it best: 'Nick was the best short-term solution and the best long-term solution.'"
Rolovich was already on Chun's radar. Operating on a shoestring budget in the islands, Rolovich went 28-27 in four seasons at Hawaii. Ten of those wins came in his last season. His offense -- the Run and Shoot -- will pretty much make for a seamless transition from Leach's Air Raid.
Also, Rolovich fits like a glove at Washington State: He's unconventional.
Wazzu has to be different to stand out. Pullman, Washington, is one of the most isolated campuses in the country. Chun ended up hiring the coach from the most isolated FBS campus in the country. Hawaii is almost 3,000 miles from Washington State.
"To be honest, there's more similarities than people think on the surface," Rolovich said. "The general care of the human next to you. There is an element of that that is very similar to Hawaii. That's also Pullman. I like that. … There's a safety feel to it. That's not as easy to find in this country anymore."
Chun basically exchanged one quirky coach for another. Mike Price may have put Washington State on the map. Leach may have taken it to the next level. Rolovich is the guy to capitalize. In a Pac-12 that refuses to produce a playoff contender lately, why not Wazzu?
They've already hired a decent human being. Rolovich is laid back enough to propose to his wife at an Irish bar on St. Patrick's Day. "Murphy's Bar & Grill. 2 Merchant Street in Honolulu. Great old building, even better proprietor."
During one of his first recruiting trips to Seattle, Rolovich tweeted a request for recommendations as he searched for a decent watering hole. His first instinct was to sift through the 20-odd responses.
"To figure out if it's a Washington trap," he said. "You've seen those movies where you walk into the wrong bar? I have visions of me backing out of the saloon door and knocking the motorcycles over."
Like Pee Wee Herman in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure?"
"Exactly like Pee Wee Herman," Rolovich said.
Off the field, Rolovich is Leach with less exposure. amid the coronavirus pandemic last month, Rolovich strapped a cell phone to his forehead, got on his bike and FaceTimed a recruit to show him the campus.
"I'm narrating as we go through campus. 'This is the stadium. This is what downtown looks like.' People said, 'Why didn't you get a GoPro?' Because I wanted to talk to him."
As the economy slumped in Pullman, Rolovich rallied. Over a three-day period, he visited three different restaurants buying meals for the first 20 folks who showed up.
Off the field, the incoming and outgoing coaches similarly specialize at keeping the world off balance. Leach is The Pirate. Rolovich is the guy who brought an Elvis impersonator to Mountain West Media Day only because he couldn't find a way to bring a monkey.
"I don't know what initiated the monkey thought, but ... I don't really remember," he said. "I don't know whether it was the movie, 'The Hangover.' Isn't there a monkey in that? I'm sure that had some part of my subconscious."
Rolovich has been known to dress like a clown at the spring game and make touchdowns worth 2.5 million points. Is that "Leach" enough for you?
On the field, the two coaches are virtually the same philosophically. Leach left a roster devoid of tight ends and fullbacks, perfect for Rolovich's Run and Shoot. Just don't tell Rolovich.
"As much [time] as Coach Leach and I have spent on the phone, it's not necessarily about offensive strategy," he said. "It's hard for me to say without at least having some experience in the Air Raid. I got none."
Did we say unique? It's in the school's athletic genes. Washington State has to be different because it's hard to be dominant. Dick Bennett, and later his son Tony, ran the unique Pack Line defense in basketball.
Price cultivated quarterbacks at a place that shouldn't have been able to recruit them. Leach took it to the next level. Three of the Pac-12's top nine career passers are Cougars.
Consider Rolovich himself. With his role limited as Hawaii's backup quarterback, he was a day away from taking the exam to become a fireman in 2001. Several of his relatives were in the profession.
"Work a day, get a couple off, work another day," Rolovich said. "Sounds cool."
But Timmy Chang, who went on to become the NCAA's career passing leader, was injured early in the season against Nevada. Rolovich subbed in and went on to throw for almost 3,400 yards and 34 touchdowns in the next nine games. Oh yeah, he skipped the fireman exam.
"I was going to take the fire test because I was on the bench behind Timmy," Rolovich said. "I don't know if I really wanted to be a fireman. I like firemen. I like how firemen grew up. There was a bond between them. I don't know whether it was chili cookouts or softball leagues. I don't know if it was my inner circle."
Whatever the case, Rolovich, 41, made a name for himself. It led him to career in coaching. He had attended the same junior college as O.J. Simpson, City College of San Francisco. His high school (San Marin near San Francisco) produced Dan Fouts and Jared Goff.
In 2008, Greg McMackin hired him as the Rainbow Warriors' quarterbacks coach. Eight years later, he was leading Hawaii's program.
The scenery is beautiful. The existence is spartan. At $46 million, Hawaii's athletic budget is smaller than East Carolina, UMass and James Madison, according to USA Today's financial database. On official visits, "They've got to decipher who wants a vacation and who actually wants to play football," Chun said.
"You can't use it as an excuse," Rolovich said. "As soon as [the budget] creeps into your mind as an excuse …"
He did not finish. It's enough to consider that carving out 18 wins the last two seasons should be categorized as something of a major accomplishment for Rolovich.
No monkeys, no money, no problem.
"When we got the Hawaii job, we just needed to get some attention," Rolovich said. "I try to do the right thing. I try to be a good person. I try to make people laugh. Embarrassing myself doesn't bother me."