Mike Breske, a coaching veteran with more than three decades of experience, joined Mike Leach’s coaching staff as the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach in January, 2012.
Breske saw the defense make significant strides in 2013, along with helping the Cougars reach a bowl game for the first time since 2003, the defense forced 30 turnovers, second-most in the Pac-12 and the most by a WSU defense since 2006. Washington State also finished tied for third in the conference in red zone defense and even turned a couple turnovers into points, returning four interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns. The Cougars turned in a couple impressive defensive performances throughout the year, holding eventual SEC-champion Auburn to 99 passing yards, limiting USC to just 54 yards passing and seven points in WSU’s first win at the Coliseum since 2000. Breske also saw his defense post the program’s first shutout since 2003 in the 42-0 win over Idaho.
The defense produced a pair of All-Pac-12 selections in safety Deone Bucannon and cornerback Damante Horton highlighted by Bucannon’s first-team selection. Bucannon, who led the Pac-12 in tackles and tied for the league lead in interceptions, also became Washington State’s first All-America first-team selection since 2005 and was later selected to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
In 2012, his first season in Pullman, Breske guided an aggressive, youthful defense that gained valuable experience throughout the season. Six players made their first career start in the season opener yet the Cougar defense finished the season ranked No. 8 nationally in tackles-for-loss (7.67 per game) and No. 11 in sacks per game (2.92). The Cougar defense also recorded 15 interceptions, the most by a WSU defense since the 2006 season. Strong safety Deone Bucannon was a second-team All-Pac-12 Conference selection while two redshirt freshmen, defensive tackle Xavier Cooper and linebacker Darryl Monroe, earned honorable mention honors.
Breske arrived at Washington State after completing his second season at the University of Montana, where he served as defensive coordinator and worked with the safeties. It marked the second time in his long and successful career Breske served on the Montana staff, having been the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator/secondary coach for the Grizzlies under head coach Joe Glenn from 2000-2002.
In 2011 the Grizzlies defense ranked 26th in total defense, surrendering 327.14 ypg. They were also 18th in scoring defense (19.93 ppg) and 19th in pass efficiency defense (111.08) en route to reaching the FCS semifinals and finishing the season 11-3.
Breske made an immediate impact in 2010 as Montana was ranked 10th in the nation in total defense, giving up just 289.82 yards per game. The defense also ranked 14th in tackles-for-loss (7.64 pg) and 18th in sacks (2.64 pg). Strong safety Erik Stoll was an All-America selection 2010 and a First-Team All-Big Sky selection, while free safety Jimmy Wilson was an honorable mention All-Big Sky pick. Additionally, he coached Jimmy Williams, who is currently playing for the Miami Dolphins.
Breske has more than 30 years of coaching experience in the collegiate ranks under his belt. Prior to his second stint at Montana, he served a one-year stint as the defensive coordinator/ secondary coach at North Dakota State in 2009.
From 2003-08 he served as the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator and secondary coach for Glenn at the University of Wyoming. In 2006 the Cowboys were ranked ninth in the nation in total defense, while they were 22nd in 2007 and 43rd in 2008.
During his first stint at Montana (2000-02), the Grizzlies prospered, winning the Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) national championship in 2001, finishing as runner-up in 2000 and advancing to the quarterfinals in 2002. In 2000 Montana finished eighth in total defense (265.00 ypg), second in rushing defense (76.64 ypg) and 33rd in scoring defense (19.27 ppg).
During that three-year stretch he coached two players to All-America status, Vince Huntsberger (2000) and Trey Young (2001-02). Addiitonally, he
Prior to Montana he was the defensive coordinator for Northern Colorado's powerhouse teams from 1987-99. He was also the defensive coordinator at Wayne State College (Neb.) from 1983-87; the secondary coach at Yankton (S.D.) College in 1982-83, and was a graduate assistant coach at Northern Iowa from 1981-82.
Breske was an all-conference cornerback and team captain at South Dakota State, playing there from 1976-80.
He earned a bachelor's degree at SDSU in 1981 and a master's at Northern Iowa in 1982. Mike and his wife Tami have three children, Cari, Adam, and Taylor. They have four grandchildren: two granddaughters, Mikayla and Katelyn, and two grandsons, Bryson and Dylan.