Leach's comments on Wednesday encompassed the controversy with former star wide receiver Marquess Wilson, who left the team this month amid accusations of abuse by Leach.
Leach said the situation has been “an obvious distraction” and “a waste of time.”
While he hasn’t spoken with Wilson, Leach said he has heard that “he has basically recanted everything he said.”
Wilson’s departure is indicative of what Leach wants to avoid. He would rather have players who don’t need a coach to be hard on them.
“I think guys that really want to play, that are determined to play, aren’t going to do anything like that,” he said, “because they’re harder on themselves than their coaches will ever be.”
He added that social media doesn’t help. Rather, he said, it provides an outlet for complaining.
“There’s always been a certain amount among coaches, players, everybody, but I think it allows the whining to go further and be louder,” he said. “That doesn’t change the fact that it needs to be ignored.”
LEACH SAID THAT if players don’t like the way they’re being motivated, they don’t have to play.
“If a player doesn’t like the way something is going, then why doesn’t he quit?” he asked. “Go find a team where lackadaisical effort is allowed. Nothing says they have to keep playing, (but) instead, they want to whine and act like they’re mistreated."
Leach added emphatically that people don’t want to coach – or watch – athletes being lazy and complacent.
“If they wanted it to be comfortable, they wouldn’t call it football to begin with.”
So what would they call it?
“Well, it wouldn’t be football,” he said before pausing for a moment to think. “Cuddling. They’d call it cuddling.”
The bottom line, Leach said, is that they’re doing things at Washington State the same way they’ve always done them.
“We’ve just got to improve and get better and get guys who love to work and hate to lose and football important to them,” he said. “Right now, we’re in a transition period, and that’s good, too.”
Asked whether he anticipates a number of players leaving in the offseason, Leach was succinct.
“Wouldn’t surprise me,” he said.
WHILE LEACH SAID no decisions have been made about next year’s starters, he naturally considers sophomore Connor Halliday the most experienced of the team’s signal callers.
“It’s always open,” he said of the role. “There’s always competition.”
Asked whether he has had a chance to evaluate freshman quarterback Austin Apodaca, Leach said that it’s hard to get a good look at someone on scout team. He did add that the Longmont, Colo., native is getting “better and better.”
“You have the ability to evaluate three (players) with some consistency during a season, and even then it’s somewhat dicey,” he said. “In spring, you have them suit up, go head to head … and then in the first two weeks of camp, have them battle it out and see who takes the job away from whom.”
Leach said that his biggest challenge is youth, which he felt translated to a lack of confidence this season.
“I said early on that we’re better than we think we are,” he said. “But we’re a team who went out there and had it in their heads that ‘we haven’t had much success around here, so we’re not going to now’.”
Still, he said, he was pleased with the team’s performances against UCLA, in the face of adversity – “they bought in and almost won the game” – and Stanford, where they played “as tough as anybody this year.”
He would prefer to not reflect upon the “horrible” 49-6 loss to Utah, after which he compared the team to a “zombie convention,” just a week after his now infamous comments about “empty corpse” players.
He said that if a coach says his team played poorly, people are going to get upset.
“Everybody starts screaming bloody murder,” he said. “(Such answers) are not what anybody wants to hear.”
LEACH SAID THE coaching staff will focus on the offensive and defensive lines in recruiting.
“That’s where we’re the lightest,” he said. “Numerically, we’re chasing more people for those slots.”
While winning the Apple Cup in an overtime thriller has garnered some enthusiasm among recruits, Leach said that interest has been steady all along. His main focus is keeping talented players from leaving the state – “the state of Washington is key” – and also making inroads in California and Texas.
He said he was especially surprised by the positive response in Southern California, which he calls “the most underutilized area in the Pac-12 footprint.”
“The reception has been tremendous,” he said. “I thought it would be good, but it’s been even better.”
Leach said that unlike when he was at Texas Tech, he is now courting players in the Lone Star State who are looking to get out and see the world.
“We’re looking for the guy who wants to do something different, maybe move back to Texas eventually, but get out and go out of state for the college years.”
Leaving for new adventures is something Leach isn’t looking to do himself, though.
Asked about rumors that he has been in contact with other schools, he was dismissive.
“I’m not looking for another position,” he said. “I’m happy here. It’s about as simple as that."