Washington State Coach Mike Leach weighs in on the Marcus Smart incident


Dec 21, 2013; Albuquerque, NM, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach against the Colorado State Rams during the Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State head coach Mike Leach paused from taking a little time off after crossing the 2014 recruiting finish line last week to speak with ESPN radio personality Armen Williams.

As you might expect, Leach didn’t hold anything back in discussing the recent incident with Oklahoma State player Marcus Smart going after a fan who verbally berated him. Smart has been suspended for three games as a result of his actions.

Timing of the interview with Williams offers insight on how Leach might deal with the recent trouble Cougar wide receiver Gabe Marks finds himself in.

In case you haven’t heard about Marks’ incident, Josh Davis of ACU posted a story here last Sunday.

“Well I don’t know exactly what happened,” began Leach. “Stories get distorted and passed around all the time, as far as this happened, that happened and the other thing happened. But I do know this as a coach, and I tell my team this all the time, it doesn’t matter what they say in the stands.”

Feb 9, 2014; Stillwater , OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Marcus Smart listens as head coach Travis Ford (not pictured) address the media at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

If Marks was listening to the interview, he likely winced when his coach stated, “I want my players disciplined enough that they don’t go into the stands.” You don’t have to do much guessing to expand what Mike Leach expects from his players. And if you aren’t clear on the inference, it’s all about self-control and discipline.

"“You either have self-control or you don’t. Either you’re a disciplined person or you’re not.” – WSU head coach Mike Leach"

In the case of Marcus Smart reacting aggressively to being verbally attacked by a fan, some speculate if either combatant crossed a line.

“Really what we’re talking about here is bad manners,” explained Leach. “Should you be allowed to do this, that and the other thing. With all this politically correct crap that we’ve got going on in this country, we’re trying to figure out where a line is so everybody is allowed to be ridiculously touchy about everything.”

“Words are just words and that’s always been the case. Then somebody says, ‘They hurt my feelings’. Well, too bad. Be tougher than that and have self-esteem that’s not going to allow you to get your feelings hurt.”

When it comes to guiding student-athletes to become responsible adults, isn’t that the sort of advice which will stand the test of time?

When asked to reflect on a program initiated at Texas Tech, the previous university where Leach successfully ran the football program, it was all the affable head coach could do to contain himself. The administration at Tech rolled out the ‘Raider Power’ program, at a cost of about $1million, to assure students behave themselves at home games.

You won’t have to search long or hard to get a pulse on Leach’s view of ‘Raider Power’.Here’s what he had to say on the topic.

“I thought some of that was a bunch of foolishness. That’s the excitement of college athletics. You go on the road and it’s tough to play on the road. Now everybody wants to entitle themselves to be touchy. I wanted it to be loud at Tech. I wanted it to be hostile at Tech because guess what? When I went on the road to Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and in particular to Texas A&M, those were wild places to play. They were fun. I was excited every time we got to go to one of those stadiums because of the hostility of the crowd. If you were able to win the game it was all the more rewarding. It was just an incredibly exciting place to be. Exciting environment. Everything about it was exciting. But in the process you can’t be a baby about somebody calling you names.”

Even during the lean years of Cougar football leading up to Mike Leach arriving in Pullman, the student section in Martin Stadium has been packed with excited, enthusiastic fans lending support for their beloved Cougs.

If anything, there is expectation the level of passion displayed by Cougar fans will escalate in the coming season and for decades to come.

“I just have a hard, hard, hard, hard, hard time taking anything very seriously that involves nothing more than name calling. How evil can the fan possibly be if he did nothing more than call names? How offended or how damaged can the player possibly be if he is nothing more than the victim of name calling?”

Winning or losing a ball game is one thing. Losing self-respect and dignity, well, that’s quite another.