Head Coach Lovie Smith shared a friendship with Mike Leach that spanned 25 years. The Mississippi State head football coach passed away Monday night in the hospital following complications related to a heart condition.
"When we leave this earth, I think all of us would, if we could, listen to what people are saying about us," Smith said Wednesday. "I've seen and heard some of the comments that were said about Mike and I have similar comments."
Leach, age 61, pioneered the Air Raid offense, changing the landscape of college football. Even though they never coached together, the duo crossed paths thanks to a mutual friend.
"In 1997 I think it was, we did a clinic together in Las Vegas," Smith said. "I'll say, a memorable clinic together in Las Vegas."
Smith, a defensive-minded NFL coach, was the linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Leach, innovated offensive minded college coach, was the offensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma at the time.
"We had a friend that was working for the city of Las Vegas, so this was my first chance to be a headliner to speak to, I thought at the time, 600 to 700 high school coaches out in Las Vegas," Smith recalled. "The guy who invited us was a friend of both of ours. We both flew out there ready to give this big clinic, and the night before the clinic, our friend told us, 'Hey, we got the dates wrong, and I don't know if anyone is going to show up tomorrow.'"
Unaffected by the news, Leach and Smith spent the evening chatting and getting to know one another. However, on the day of the clinic, the turnout for attendance was abysmal.
"The next morning, we went there in the morning and six coaches showed up to the clinic," Smith said. "Mike Leach put on the best quarterback clinic you can put on. I felt like I did a pretty good job defensively. So, that's when I first met him, and we've been friends since then. I think every time through the years that we've seen someone that we know, we talk about each other, and we talk about that story. But he was a great coach and did so much for our game. That's been said. He'll be missed."
Leach was a two-time national coach of the year, three-time Power 5 conference coach of the year and served as head coach at Texas Tech, Washington State and was in his third season at Mississippi State.