Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham Remembers Friend, Mike Leach

Dec 13, 2022, 5:52 PM
Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach and Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham shake hand...
Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach and Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham shake hands after Utah’s 38-13 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY- Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham and college football coaching legend Mike Leach go way back. Like back to the late ’70s and early ’80s in Provo, Utah where LaVell Edwards and BYU football were beginning to revolutionize the game. Whittingham was a linebacker for the Cougars at the time and Leach was recruited to play as well, but an injury ended his college football career before it ever began. Still, Leach stuck close by the game learning everything he could. In the process a long-standing friendship was started that Whittingham reflected on after news the Mississippi State head coach had succumbed to complications from a heart condition came down early Tuesday morning. Leach was just 61 years old.

“Tragic, our thoughts, prayers, condolences go out to his wife, his kids, his grandchildren,” Whittingham said. “Just an awful turn of events. He was 61 years old and a good friend of mine. It’s just devastating. We will miss him; the whole college football world will miss Mike Leach.”

Kyle And Mike

Anyone that has spent a lot of time around Kyle Whittingham and Mike Leach understands that while they may appear to be polar opposites, there is also something very similar about them too.

Yes, Leach always was outwardly quirky and never seemed to care very much either whether that bothered people or not. Whitt on the other hand is a more reserved and stoic character, but also has a playful side he’ll show when he feels comfortable in his surroundings. Both have demonstrated through the years- one more loudly than the other, an innate curiosity about a variety of topics and a thirst for knowledge.

“He was brilliant, I can tell you that,” Whittingham said. “You could pick any subject- UFOs, Sasquatch, politics- three hours on any subject he could go. You don’t get much talking in. He would carry the conversation. He was well-versed in every subject- any subject you’d bring up.”

In those ways, it’s easy to see how Kyle and Mike would have a long-standing friendship no matter where life and their coaching careers ultimately took them.

“One time we were talking before a game- I think he was still at Washington State,” Whittingham reflected. “We were talking and he pulls a banana out of the back of his pocket and starts eating his banana before saying, ‘do you want one? I’ve got another one back here.’ He was his own man, his own person. I don’t want to say he didn’t care what anyone thought, but he said what was on his mind and he was one of a kind. His humor was second to none and I miss him dearly.”


Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports


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Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham Remembers Friend, Mike Leach