WSU's Leach visits Tri-Cities

February 7, 2014 

Mike Leach doesn’t take losses well.

In fact, the Washington State football coach may carry with him the Cougars’ shocking New Mexico Bowl loss to Colorado State in December longer than he’d like to admit.

But that doesn’t mean the talented WSU coach, in his second year at the Cougars’ helm, can’t use the memory to help build up his program even further.

“It will always bother you. The big thing is move on and improve,” said Leach, who made an appearance Friday as part of A Night With Cougar Football at the Tri-Cities Convention Center in Kennewick.

“We played with a lot of freshmen and sophomores who got progressively better. It just illustrated the importance of finishing and being focused and detailed in your work,” Leach said of the bowl loss that saw a 15-point Cougars lead disappear in the final three minutes. “Another benefit is a good lesson for the offseason. It energized us and created a lot of focus. We’re having a real good offseason right now. It just started, but there’s a lot of intensity and everybody is working together well.”

The event brought nearly 300 WSU football fans to the main ballroom for an elegant dinner and a chance to bid on an impressive array of Cougar memorabilia as well as a Bruce Springsteen autographed guitar.

“I’m excited to see all the Cougar faithful. We get to see fans from all over,” Leach said. “One of the best things about football is the opportunity to share it with so many people. That’s what energizes your program. It fills the stadium up and creates excitement.”

Leach also talked about the recent signing of Deion Singleton, a Chiawana senior who helped the Riverhawks win the Class 4A football title after transferring from Tallahassee, Fla., where he won a Class 5A title at Godby High School in 2012.

“We’re excited about Deion. He moved in, and the more we learned about him the more excited we were about him,” Leach said. “He’s tall and fast, he can hit and play a variety of positions. He was on a lot of people’s maps, so we feel real fortunate to have him.”

Leach said he and the WSU coaches were fortunate to have some extra time to get to know Singleton on his latest campus visit just last weekend.

“It wasn’t a very crowded weekend. He was the only visitor, so we really got to spend a lot of quality time with him,” Leach said. “Our entire staff got to know him really well. We enjoyed him and can’t wait to get him up in Pullman.”

Leach is impressed with Singleton’s versatility, saying he could play safety or cornerback and any position on special teams.

Well, almost any position.

“Other than probably (kicking) field goals, I can’t think of anywhere on special teams he can’t play,” he said.

Leach shared the stage with former ESPN anchor and event host Cindy Brunson, a 1996 WSU graduate who was thrilled at the opportunity to help her alma mater continue what she considered an astonishing growth curve over the last decade.

“For the most part, I’m in shock and awe at how much more luxurious the dorms are and how much (the campus) has grown,” Brunson said. “It still has a small-college feel, but a small college we’re-not-messing-around-anymore (feel).”

Brunson was a basketball standout at Curtis High School in Tacoma set to play for WSU — on a partial academic and partial athletic scholarship — before a third ACL tear in her left knee prevented her from taking the court. That didn’t stop her from learning everything there was to know about broadcasting.

When she was hired by ESPN in 1999, she continued to support and root for the Cougars.

“Like a rabid dog. Especially when the Cougars beat the (Washington) Huskies, I always gave a really snarky shoutout,” she said, specifically remembering WSU’s sweep of UW in women’s basketball last season, the first Cougar sweep of the Huskies since 1975.

“That’s what I love about football gaining traction and getting momentum, is that all the other boats are rising,” Brunson said. “Every program is benefiting. Everybody’s slice of the pie gets a little bigger.”

w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; jmillikin@tricityherald.com

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