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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

April 18, 2013 at 3:17 PM

Mike Leach’s childhood fascination with Geronimo leads to book

Adam Lewis

Murrow News Service

Mike Leach first learned about Geronimo, the famous Apache warrior, during a childhood visit to the library in Golden, Colo. His mom had told him he could pick out any book he wanted.

“I’ve read nearly everything I can get on him since,” said Leach, Washington State’s football coach.

Now, some four decades later, Leach is writing Geronimo’s life story with Buddy Levy, an English professor at WSU, who also stars in the History Channel show “Decoded.”

“(Geronimo) had a vision of his destiny, obviously valued the Apache way and the things that they were able to achieve were astounding,” Leach said.

The duo collaborated only after Leach realized they taught and coached at the same university. In 2011, before Leach was hired at WSU, his book agent asked him to meet with a professor from a college in the “Pacific Northwest.” The only problem: Leach was in the midst of a book tour for his autobiography, “Swing Your Sword” and hosting a show on Sirius Satellite Radio.

The meeting never happened.

Flash ahead to Leach’s first year in Pullman. He walked into Bohler Athletic Department and was told Levy was in his office.

“Who’s Buddy Levy?” Leach asked.

Only after Leach met the professor did he realize who Levy was.

“It turns out he’s the same guy,” the coach said, “and he is a professor at Washington State, the college in the Northwest.”

Levy said he name-dropped his most famous student the first time they met – one Leach was surely familiar with.

“I told him that I’d been working at Washington State for many years and that I was previously Drew Bledsoe’s English professor so I think that warmed him up,” he said.

They quickly became friends. Levy believed their shared fascination with Geronimo would make for a captivating book. Levy’s knowledge of history – he’s written about everything from conquistadores to Davy Crockett – combined with Leach’s theories about leadership provided a template for a two-pronged book about Geronimo’s life and leadership.

Levy said his co-author’s transition into the literary world came naturally.

“He’s always thinking about connections and historical context and he knows a ton,” he said. “He’s widely read, so he’s able to make a lot of different connections.

Both hope it reaches a diverse audience when Gallery Books releases it sometime in 2014. Levy and Leach believe the first manuscript will be done this summer.

Leach is known for choosing a topic to research in the offseason, then applying what he learns to coaching. He said writing about the last Indian American to surrender his tribe to U.S. forces was no different.

“Anytime you have an individual who believes in his convictions so much that he’s willing to risk his own life and the lives of his people for principles – and take it to that level – then he commands attention,” Levy said.

Leach may have felt like similar forces were bearing down against him last season, when his team finished 3-9. Like his first losing season ever, Leach’s second book has been a learning experience.

One that started during a visit to a library in Golden, Colo.

The Murrow News Service provides local, regional and statewide stories reported and written by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.

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