LUBBOCK (AP) – Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach says his book is more about his career than his firing because he started writing it before he was dismissed amid accusations he mistreated a player with a concussion.
Leach said Tuesday before a book signing in Lubbock that it would have been “irresponsible” not to detail his 2009 firing from Texas Tech.
“Everyone wanted my point of view on what happened at Tech,” said Leach, who wrote “Swing Your Sword,” the title a nod to his penchant for pirate lore and its application to football.
Most of the book chronicles Leach’s life, from his upbringing and why he chose coaching over practicing law to how his coaching style developed. He takes readers to each college at which he coached, arriving at Texas Tech on page 107.
It’s another 70 pages, the book’s last two chapters, before Leach begins discussing his firing and criticizes the university.
The university fired Leach amid claims that he mistreated receiver Adam James, son of Craig James, an ESPN analyst. Leach has long denied that, and said he believes an $800,000 bonus he was due was the reason he was fired.
Leach sued the school for wrongful termination but a Texas appeals court allowed his trial to go forward for only non-monetary damages. He has filed a separate libel suit accusing ESPN and a Dallas public relations firm, Spaeth Communications, Inc., of slander.
ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys in an email said Leach’s suit is “without merit” and the company will defend against it “vigorously.”
Leach claimed Tuesday that Craig James hired Spaeth as long as two weeks before he was fired Dec. 30, 2009. In the book he claims that emails “suggest” Spaeth was used by the university to “smear” Leach’s name.
Scott McLaughlin, the attorney representing Craig James and Spaeth, said in an email response that Spaeth was hired to counter Leach’s claims.
“Merrie Spaeth is a respected communications professional who was retained by Craig James and his counsel to provide advice about the untrue and inflammatory allegations about him and Adam that were being attributed to Mike Leach,” McLaughlin’s email states.
Several hundred of the former coach’s fans stood outside the Barnes & Noble in Lubbock in triple-digit heat to wait for Leach to sign their books. Some wore pirate masks, while others donned T-shirts that read “Team Leach” or “Swing your Sword. One former player, linebacker Brian Duncan stopped by to say hello.
Regardless of how Leach came to leave Lubbock, “he’s my coach,” Duncan said. “He gave me an opportunity to play, to start. He was a great guy to me.”
One woman told Leach as he signed her book that she had never loved football until he came to West Texas. Others wished him luck or told him they missed him.
A 2005 Texas Tech graduate told Leach he’d made his class ring mean something.
“Wherever I go everyone knows Texas Tech,” said Miles Blankenship, who drove 120 miles from Amarillo to get his book autographed. “He definitely put us on the nationwide map.”
Leach in his book compares how the school treated him to how it dealt with Bob Knight after several incidents while he coached the Texas Tech basketball team. He points to Knight’s dustup with the then-chancellor of Tech at a grocery store salad bar, Knight spewing a tirade of expletives on television and Knight intentionally leaving two players in Austin after a Red Raiders loss.
Leach writes that Knight didn’t get suspended or reprimanded.
Texas Tech spokesman Dicky Grigg said Leach’s argument misses the point.
“His involved a student athlete that had a concussion,” Grigg said of Leach’s situation. “What mattered is he punished and humiliated a student athlete who had a concussion. What kind of message is that going to send other players on the team?”
Leach, who has lived in Key West, Fla., since shortly after his firing and was passed up for the job Maryland early this year, is awaiting word on whether the Texas Supreme Court will review the appellate court’s ruling. If the high court reverses the appeals court and rules that Texas Tech waived sovereign immunity protection by its conduct, Leach’s suit could go forward for monetary damages.
Leach said he believes what readers will remember best will be about his coaching, not his departure from West Texas.
“It’s been impressive how it’s been received” so far, Leach said.
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