Coach Walden Interview
I talked to Jim Walden last week BEFORE the latest developments in Pullman. You’re probably aware of those developments – Marquess Wilson quit the team Saturday night, citing physical, emotional and verbal abuse from the coaching staff.
Then on Sunday, WSU president Elson Floyd called for an athletic department and Pac-12 investigation into Wilson’s allegations.
You say cluster, I’ll say bleep.
Anyway, keep in mind that I talked to Walden BEFORE these things happened and wrote the following story late last week…
Jim Walden is not happy with the way that Mike Leach has publicly criticized his players since replacing Paul Wulff as coach of the Cougars this year.
A former coach at Washington State himself, Walden supported Wulff and did not think a coaching change should be made. He still feels that way.
Walden was on the Cougar football radio broadcasts for many years until this season but still follows the team from his home near Coeur d’Alene.
“I’m sick of the word ‘change’ and all this talk about changing the culture,” Walden said. “I didn’t think we needed to make one, and now with this change, we’ve given up our decency as Cougars.
“This guy (Leach) represents everything not to do in coaching.”
Walden said he has heard from “umpteen” coaches who believe that Leach has crossed the line with his public criticism of players. It reached the breaking point last Saturday when Leach forced his offensive and defensive linemen to meet with the media to explain their sorry play in a 49-6 loss at Utah.
“The coaches are asking me: ‘What’s going on? This guy’s a joke,’ ” Walden said before continuing.
“I know I didn’t take 10 teams to bowl games, but I played football for many different coaches, and not a one ever tried to destroy my dignity. I grew up in the South. No one can mistreat you more than football coaches in the South. I was brought up in that environment, but none of ‘em ever tried to take away my dignity.
“In less than nine weeks, the school that I hold dear, to watch a football coach take away dignity from the entire football program…”
Walden’s voice trailed off, but his feelings were clear. He still thinks it was the wrong move to replace Wulff in spite of his 9-40 record.
“You go back one year,” Walden said. “We fought ASU and Utah tooth and toenail. Nobody saw the football team fighting its ass off. They were playing hard for Paul Wulff, and you’ve got what you got now. We’ve got to listen to the AD talk about changing the culture and letting the football coach do whatever he wants to do.
“The last coach they let do whatever he wanted to do, they just removed his statue.
“Everyone wanted to fire Paul Wulff. If Paul Wulff had said any of those things that this coach has said, where in the world would he be today? They would have skinned him alive. Yet this coach can do whatever he wants to do.”
Walden used to yell at his players too. He also used some colorful words when he met with reporters, one time saying “the Cougars got run over by a mo-ped” after losing a game to an inferior team. He put his players through rigorous workouts the following week.
“Football players will take a browbeating,” Walden said. “You can holler at ‘em. But don’t do what he’s doing. Don’t denigrate ‘em. It violates every rule in coaching.
“I don’t know who this guy is, and I don’t care if he goes on to big wins and big seasons. I don’t want to be around someone who treats people this way. I can’t sort out being a Cougar and being around this guy. I’m proud of the Cougar way and how Cougars operate and the culture of which they are. He’s embarrassing my profession. He’s taking me somewhere I don’t want to go.”
Walden knows it’s a polarizing issue and recognizes there are a lot of Cougs who believe that Leach is doing what’s necessary to build a winning program.
“If this is what the new Cougars are all about, I’m glad I’m an old Cougar,” he said.
Walden has been in contact with Wulff, who’s an assistant coach with the 49ers.
“He’s getting barraged with phone calls from parents who are so disappointed and frustrated,” Walden said. “It’s breaking his heart. It’s just a mess.
“I said since day one (when Leach was hired) that it would set us back, and that was before I found out what a weird dude he was. I’ve been upset since last December and I don’t see myself feeling any better for awhile.”