NEW YORK – Mike Leach left Lubbock, Texas, in a hurry and headed for the place Ernest Hemingway once called home after he was fired as the coach of Texas Tech.
Eventually, Leach wants to return to coaching college football, but for now he's living in Key West, Fla., with his family, diving for lobsters, using a bicycle to get around and neglecting a huge stack of books he was hoping to read.
He could have spent the fall kicking back and knocking off some of those books, but instead Leach did what most out-of-work coaches do — he got a job in television.
The quirky and outspoken Leach was hired by CBS College Sports Network to be a game analyst this season. He was at the network's Manhattan studios on Tuesday to start preparing for the gig. He has no experience as a broadcaster — though he did make a cameo on the television show "Friday Night Lights" playing himself.
"I think the press calls and press conferences and interviews are beneficial, but certainly different," he said. "I have no illusions about this. People major in this. They study for years and have years of experience on me. I need to draw from their experience and do the best I can to contribute what I can."
Leach was fired by Texas Tech in December after being accused of mistreating a player who had a concussion. He has sued the school for breach of contract and denies mistreating receiver Adam James. He claims the school got rid of him to avoid paying him an $800,000 bonus.
Leach spent 10 seasons with Texas Tech and became the school's winningest coach with a record of 84-43. His spread offense produced some of the most prolific passing offenses in NCAA history and helped the Red Raiders compete with national powerhouses such as Texas and Oklahoma.
But he had an icy relationship with athletic director Gerald Myers and a propensity to say whatever was on his mind — such as when he admonished his team for paying too much attention to what their "fat little girlfriends" had to say.
Leach's interests span way beyond football, which he did not play while earning an undergraduate degree at BYU. He has a law degree, a well-documented fondness for pirates, and has delved into topics ranging from grizzly bears to the work of artist Jackson Pollock.
"I thought personally he'd be perfect for (TV)," said Steve Herbst, general manager of CBS College Sports Network. "I thought the components that made him a successful football coach, what I had seen off air from him, press conferences and things like that, that he had all the elements and all the sensibilities and perspective to be a good on-air presence."
Leach will be paired with play-by-play announcer Roger Twibell and do mostly Conference USA games, starting with North Carolina State at Central Florida on Sept. 11.
"We are going to insist that he be himself," Herbst said. "There are no limitations on what Mike can or cannot talk about."
Working in television is another way to stay close to the game for Leach while he waits for his next opportunity to lead a college program.
"I liked the fact that this is different," the 49-year-old said. "I like the fact that this is a new challenge. I like the fact that it gives me something else to study and learn. I like the fact that my eyes are on a lot of football and people moving around."
Leach visited the training camps of the Jets, Giants and Eagles during his visit to the Northeast to try to pick up a few coaching pointers and he's got some cramming to do for his new job before he heads back to his new home on the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys.
He said he bought a bungalow in Key West, famous for its beautiful beaches, laid-back atmosphere and offbeat residents, last year as an investment. He and his wife planned to rent it out.
Instead, it became their home in January after his time in Lubbock came to a messy and hasty end.
Considering Leach's personality, it seems like a perfect place for him.
"We don't even have a car," he said.
"We bought four bikes. I went back to Lubbock, packed up eight boxes, shipped them to Key West and put everything else in storage."