Alabama’s Nick Saban Shares Thoughts Following Mike Leach’s Death

Getty Nick Saban reminisced about Mike Leach after the Mississippi State head coach's passing on December 12

The college football world suddenly lost one of the great coaching personalities of all time with the passing of Mike Leach. The Mississippi State head coach had a heart condition on Sunday, December 11 that resulted in a hospital stay — one that ultimately ended with him in hospice care and his death on December 12. Leach was surrounded by his family in his final moments.

In the wake of his death, many of his coaching contemporaries spoke out, and Nick Saban let his respect and admiration of Leach be known in a December 13 statement released via his Twitter.

“Mike Leach was a friend, and we are deeply saddened by his unexpected passing,” the statement read. “I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Mike over the last several years. I never knew quite where our conversations were going, but they always made me smile. He was an offensive innovator who always did things his way and was admired for it.”

Saban’s statement made note to honor his schematic contributions to the sport and lauded his coaching success. “His teams were well-coached and extremely challenging to defend,” the statement read. “They played with poise and toughness, which is a credit to his leadership. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sharon, their children and the entire Mississippi State family.”

What Mike Leach Believed Makes Nick Saban Successful

Mike Leach, like many the world over, admired Nick Saban for how successful he has been during his coaching career. Back on July 19 during SEC Media Days, Leach lauded Saban’s willingness to ‘coach ’em hard.’

“He does a tremendous job of getting the most out of his players,” Leach said. “One thing that I’ve always liked, he’s not afraid to coach ‘em hard. Doing that over and over again. He’s a guy that we all admire. Then, of course, the magnitude and power of Alabama commands attention.”

Leach wasn’t afraid to point out the advantages the Alabama football program has as an institution, but also conceded Saban improved over the course of his career regardless of program resources. “Well, I mean, some of it’s the resources of the program — not to take anything away from Coach Saban, because he does a tremendous job — and then also has a big tree of coaches,” Leach said. “But there’s circumstances that can be beneficial, too. I mean, he’s done things at Alabama that nobody thought was possible. But I would say he’s a better coach at Alabama than he was at Michigan State, for example.”

Mississippi State’s President Pays Respect to Mike Leach

Mississippi State’s president, Mark E. Keenum, eulogized Mike Leach in a statement on Mississippi State’s website celebrating his character and his contributions as a coach, leader, and member of the Starkville community.

“Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape,” the statement read. “His innovative “Air Raid” offense changed the game. Mike’s keen intellect and unvarnished candor made him one of the nation’s true coaching legends. His passing brings great sadness to our university, to the Southeastern Conference, and to all who loved college football. I will miss Mike’s profound curiosity, his honesty, and his wide-open approach to pursuing excellence in all things.”

Keenum pointed out how sudden this was with an anecdote of the team’s recent Egg Bowl victory on Thanksgiving night. “Mike’s death also underscores the fragility and uncertainty of our lives,” Keenum said. “Three weeks ago, Mike and I were together in the locker room celebrating a hard-fought victory in Oxford. Mike Leach truly embraced life and lived in such a manner as to leave no regrets. That’s a worthy legacy. May God bless the Leach family during these days and hours. The prayers of the Bulldog family go with them.”

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