- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 25, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0544785746
- ISBN-13: 978-0544785748
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time Hardcover – September 25, 2018
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"I thought I knew everything there is to know about the brilliant, secretive coach. The Hoodie would have made a model Prisoner of War. He gives up nothing. And yet Ian O'Connor somehow cracked the code at Fort Foxborough, producing this compelling portrait of the coach and the man. A must-read for football buffs and anyone who appreciates leadership.'' – Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe columnist and best-selling author of Francona (with Terry Francona)
“In Belichick, Ian O’Connor has delivered an excess of compelling, fresh reporting and muscled writing to construct one of our great coaching biographies. O’Connor illuminates one of sports’ most secretive and mysterious figures. Fast-moving, exhaustively researched, Belichick will transform the way you consider the man and the Patriots' dynasty.” – Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN Senior Writer and best-selling author of The Miracle of St. Anthony
"A tour de force of world-class reporting and masterful, fair-minded storytelling." – Armen Keteyian, contributing correspondent to 60 Minutes and best-selling author of Tiger Woods
"It is simply not possible to produce a more interesting, informative and beautifully written biography than Ian O'Connor has in Belichick...This is the kind of gold-standard reporting that all journalists aspire to, and few actually achieve." – Mike Vaccaro, award-winning columnist, New York Post
"A valuable portrayal of both the public and private sides of the NFL’s leading coach for the past 20 years that will be in demand among sports collections." – Library Journal, starred review
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Halberstam's "Education of a Coach" covered most of this material and probably did it better.
Bottom line - I didn't finish this book with any appreciable increase in understanding of Belichick or what makes him tick.
As O’Connor points out, many of the greatest coaches in the history of sports carried some baggage acquired during their exemplary careers. In basketball, John Wooden, Bobby Knight and Rick Pitino are cheered for their NCAA championships but are also remembered for personal shortcomings. Many great baseball managers in the steroid era proudly wear World Series rings along with the scar of casting a blind eye to their players’ use of performance-enhancing chemicals. Belichick’s championships with the New England Patriots will always provoke discussions that focus on illegal filming of opposing coaches’ signals and “Deflategate.” This biography is O’Connor’s attempt to unravel the mystery of the man. In 2000, he wrote a newspaper column predicting that Belichick would be a failure as coach of the Patriots based on his stint in Cleveland. The fact that O’Connor was so wrong served as inspiration to discover the hows and whys of his incredible success.
The early years of Belichick’s coaching career followed a traditional and familiar path. Upon graduation from college, Billy, as he was called in his first job, became an unpaid assistant with the Baltimore Colts. Steve Belichick, Bill’s father, had many friends in football coaching, which helped land him a spot with Ted Marchibroda in his first year coaching the Colts. While connections are helpful in any job, Belichick took advantage of this opportunity to immerse himself in every aspect of coaching. It was soon obvious to everyone that once he was put in a room to do a job, you would not see him until the job was done. Perhaps most important, as one veteran player observed, “I don’t remember him spending a lot of time or energy going out of his way to attach himself with the players. He didn’t find any pressure to be liked.”
Moving smoothly up the coaching ladder and having outgrown the despised “Billy” moniker, Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants with two Super Bowl victories to his credit when he was named the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 1985. Browns owner Art Modell was sold on the 38-year-old after recommendations from many coaches and from Bob Knight, who met Belichick through his coaching friends at West Point. Belichick had a plan, the Modell family believed, “not like the other guys in the past.”
While an argument regarding his Cleveland tenure can be an exhausting fan debate, it was there where some of Belichick’s most questionable coaching practices were honed. He believed in frequent and physical practices, and constructed a wall of secrecy around himself and his players. To this day, his truncated monosyllabic repeated answers at press conferences are a great source of material for ESPN, YouTube and Twitter.
Belichick’s tremendous success in New England is already well-known to both fans and detractors. I will let them debate his qualities elsewhere, but they are well-detailed in O’Connor’s book. I prefer to conclude this review with mention of the final chapter titled “Human Bill.” It opens with the question “Is Belichick really as big a prick as he seems?” The answer is no. There are countless stories of kindness, charitable donations to worthy causes that go unpublicized, and generosity to players. My favorite is Belichick giving punter Josh Miller a copy of WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, the book of children’s poetry that my wife and I also give as a baby gift. All I need now is a handful of Super Bowl rings to have something else in common with possibly professional football’s greatest coach.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman