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Former WSU DC Alex Grinch
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Who will WSU replace Mike Leach with? All eyes turn to Alex Grinch

The WSU defense had a significant turnaround under former DC Alex Grinch. (AP)

WSU football has entered the ranks of teams looking for a new head coach after Mike Leach was officially named the head coach of the SEC’s Mississippi State Bulldogs on Thursday.

Instant Reaction: 710 ESPN Seattle on Mike Leach leaving WSU

One name seems to be getting mentioned more than any other when it comes to speculation about who will replace Leach.

“I would love to see Alex Grinch return,” said 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jessamyn McIntyre, who is also the sideline reporter for WSU football radio broadcasts, to 710’s John Clayton.

Grinch is certainly an interesting candidate. The most obvious reason why is that he has history in Pullman and is somewhat of a beloved figure among Cougar fans, having served as Washington State defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach from 2015 to 2017, overseeing a particularly successful period for the Cougs’ defense.

After the 2017 season, Grinch left to become defensive coordinator at Ohio State, then took the same position at Oklahoma ahead of the 2019 campaign. He is a three-time nominee for the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach, and was a semifinalist for the honor in 2017.

As soon as reports broke that Leach was headed for Mississippi State, pundits started throwing Grinch’s name around as a candidate to replace him in the Palouse.

McIntyre thinks there’s a few reasons Grinch could become WSU’s next head coach.

“I’m sure he has his eyes on a head coaching position eventually,” she said. “… I do know his family loved it in Pullman and they really enjoyed their time there. He was a defensive coordinator (and) he completely transformed that defense (with) a new style of recruiting where he would go for more athletic, speedy guys instead of the bigger guys – recruits that Washington State could actually lure to Pullman. He went with the ‘Speed D’ – that’s how they got their name.”

Whether it’s Grinch or somebody else who replaces Leach, McIntyre said WSU is in good hands under current athletic director Pat Chun, who joined the school two years ago.

“I should just mention this, when it comes to Pat Chun, the exemplary job he’s done hiring coaches throughout his short tenure here,” McIntyre said. “He has completely brought in a new wave. The donations for the indoor practice facility are going through the roof now and that’s something that a lot of people are saying just needs to happen to draw more recruits. It’s definitely an attractive position for any coach who might want to come to Pullman to see what is going on under Pat Chun. I think that he’s going to get someone that will continue the wave of Mike Leach instead of taking a step back.”

While some might be worried that WSU will struggle to find a new coach who can maintain the level of success the Cougars enjoyed under Leach, McIntyre thinks what Leach did in his time at Washington State will allow it to attract a strong replacement.

“I think it’s a little bit (of a blow) just because this is the greatest thing this generation of Cougars fans has ever seen. You go from years of despair to success year after year,” she said. “… Of course you’re gonna look at that and not be happy about Mike Leach leaving, but it’s also an opportunity. … He has made it such a more attractive place to land. It’s not going back to the years where you don’t see a lot of success. Even though coach Leach is the greatest we’ve seen in years (at WSU) probably dating back to Mike Price, you’re going to see things continue down this road in a positive way and that is also because of Pat Chun and what he’s been able to do.”

You can hear McIntyre’s full segment with John Clayton towards the end of this podcast.

Full story: Mike Leach leaves WSU for Mississippi State

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