Leach says he'll return to college game

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Mike Leach is far from the world he knew in landlocked Lubbock.

Instead of preparing for spring practice at Texas Tech, the former Red Raiders coach is enjoying fishing, exploring and meeting the people in Key West, Fla., where he and his family moved after he was fired in late December.

And although he sounds contented with the laid-back lifestyle in the Florida enclave, there is still much unresolved in Leach's life: He has sued Texas Tech over his dismissal, his furniture is in storage and his house in Lubbock is not yet sold.

And he longs to get back into coaching.

"I've never really left football," he said in a phone interview Thursday with The Associated Press. He said he expects someday "to be back in and work at a program" that stresses graduation rates and prizes excellence on the field -- both of which he said he enjoyed at Texas Tech.

Will he wait until the lawsuit is over to begin checking out coaching jobs?

"I don't really have a crystal ball on that," he said. "Take it one day at a time. That's all I can control."

The university fired Leach on Dec. 30, two days after it suspended him amid allegations he mistreated a player with a concussion. Leach has denied he mistreated receiver Adam James, who said his coach twice ordered him to stand for hours while confined in a dark place during practice.

Leach, who declined to comment on the lawsuit, which alleged slander, libel and breach of contract. He was in Lubbock last week for depositions, and was in the same room when James' father, Craig James, and Tech Chancellor Kent Hance answered questions under oath.

Leach praised Red Raider fans and their enthusiasm for football. He said he believes a few people at Tech weren't on his side.

"There's just a few bad characters at the top and bad people do bad things," he said.

After he was fired, Leach and his family spent some time in Colorado. They went to Key West after that and now live not far from the ocean in a home he and his wife bought last fall. The home was expected to be investment property, and the couple planned to rent it to vacationers.

"Now we're here full time," Leach said. "It's handy and kind of out the way, so it worked out good."

His married daughter is doing a her medical school internship in Amarillo. Another is attending Tech. His two younger children, 13 and 11, are enrolled in Key West schools.

He spends his time talking on the phone and exploring the city and its culture. A voracious reader, Leach said he's doing "less than I thought I would" since he was fired. He has lost some weight in the pedestrian-friendly town.

He says he knows enough people in the area who will take him fishing when the seas are calm, and he loves the mixture of cultures in Key West and being close to the water.

"There's incredible things to check out, people from everywhere," Leach said. There are "interesting things that I haven't been around in the past 10 years, so all that's pretty fascinating. I can check things out and learn."