The Education of a Coach

The Education of a Coach

by David Halberstam


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Bill Belichick’s 31 years in the NFL have been marked by amazing success -- first with the Giants, then with Cleveland, and most recently, his three out of the last four Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots have made him surpass Vince Lombardi in his record for playoff victories and achieve the highest postseason winning percentage in NFL history. In this groundbreaking new book, David Halberstam explores the nuances of both the game and the man behind it. He uncovers what makes Bill Belichick tick both on and off the field, as a coach and a son. "I’ve been fascinated by Bill Belichick for more than 20 years, going back to the time when he was a young coach in his early 30s working with the linebackers on the Giants. "Halberstam writes. "There was, I thought, a certain signature to a Belichick game -- whatever it was the other team’s offense was doing in the first half, the team coached by Belichick tended to take it away in the second half. I was fascinated by that, and by the fact that he seemed so un-coachlike, or perhaps the prototype for a very different kind of modern coach in what is an increasingly complicated game. He wasn’t in any way charismatic, and he made no attempt to be charismatic -- if anything, quite the reverse, but he always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else. If anything, that made him even more interesting to me -- a man who had no interest in the celebrity culture, but had been projected into the epicenter of it because of the nature of his job and his success with it." Set apart by his Wesleyan education, Belichick approaches coaching differently than anyone else in the NFL. Here, for the first time, we learn why and how.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401301545
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 11/01/2005
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.87(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.87(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

David Halberstam is one of America’s most distinguished journalists and historians. After graduating from Harvard in 1955, he covered the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, then was sent overseas by the New York Times to report on the war in Vietnam. He won the Pulitzer prize for his Vietnam reporting at the age of 30. His last fourteen books (which include The Best and the Brightest and Hyperion’s Firehouse and Teammates) have all been New York Times bestsellers. He lives in New York City.

Date of Birth:

April 10, 1934

Date of Death:

April 23, 2007

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

San Francisco, California


B.A., Harvard, 1955

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2005 The Amateurs Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4013-0154-1

Chapter One

When the clock was finally winding down, the seconds ticking off, with the Philadelphia team unconscionably slow in getting its plays off, Steve Belichick, always in the background whenever there were television cameras around, left his place behind some of the New England players, back around the 50-yard line. Moving quickly, he headed toward the 35, wanting to share this final glorious moment with his son, Bill, the coach of New England, about to win his third Super Bowl victory in four years. Bill Belichick himself was puzzled at that moment by the slow, almost languid way the Eagles were running their plays, as if they were the ones with the lead, not the Patriots, and they wanted to burn the clock. He kept checking the scoreboard, which said 24-14, as if perhaps he was the one who had the score wrong. He called his assistants, Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini, on the headphones to make sure the Patriots did indeed enjoy a ten-point lead. "Have I got the score right?" he asked, and they assured him he did. "Then what the hell are they trying to do?" he asked. His assistants did not know, either. The long, slow drive had finally culminated in a Philadelphia score, because of a blown defensive coverage on the part of the Patriots; the correct defense, designed to give up a limited number of yards in exchange for more time off the clock, had not been sent in or used, and Philadelphia scored on a 30-yard pass play. Seeing that his players were in the wrong coverage, Belichick had tried desperately to call time-out, but he had been too late, and the Eagles had scored. Belichick had been momentarily furious, mostly at himself, because he demanded perfection first and foremost of himself: But the score had served only to snake the game closer; it had not affected the final outcome.

Steve Belichick got to his son's side just in time to be soaked by Gatorade in the ritual shower of the victorious. That gave him his first great moment of celebrity, coming at the end of a six-decade career of playing and coaching football, and that moment was witnessed by much of the entire nation, live and in color, on national television. One could imagine one of those Disneyland commercials, generally accorded the young and instantly famous at moments like these, when a voice would ask, "Steve Belichick, you've been coaching and playing for sixty, years, where are you going slow that your son has won his third Super Bowl in four years?"

It was one of the best moments of the entire Super Bowl extravaganza, filled as it is so often with moments of artificial emotion, because this moment was absolutely genuine, father and son drenched together, emotion finally showing on the face of the son, usually so reticent about showing emotion, as if to do so was to give away some precious bit of control, to fall victim at least momentarily to the whims of the modern media trap. Father and son were bonded in this instant by the joy of victory and by the shared experience of a lifetime of coaching, with all its bitter as well as celebratory moments.

Steve Belichick was a lifer, viewed by his peers as a coach's coach. He had never made much money and never enjoyed much fame outside the small hermetically sealed world of coaching. For much of his adulthood he had lived with the special uncertainty of a coach-a world without guarantees, except for the one that no matter how well things were going at the moment, they would surely turn around soon. There would be a bad recruiting year, a prize recruit who said he would come to your school and then decided at the last moment to attend an arch-rival, too many good players would be injured in the preseason (but only after the national magazines had looked at your roster and predicted a conference championship), or there would be a change in athletic directors and the new one had a favorite all his own whom he hoped to install in what was now his program. In the end, the head coach would be fired and the assistant coaches would have to leave with him.

Bill Belichick had been born in I952 in Nashville, when Steve, already considered an exceptional coach-tough and smart, original and demanding, way ahead of the curve in the drills he demanded, and, in addition to everything else, an absolutely brilliant scout-was in the process of being fired as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt, even though the team he was part of had done reasonably well. He had been fired, all of the members of the Belichick family later believed, because they and the coaching team they were part of had been not quite social enough for the genteel world of Vanderbilt football, and there had been a deftly organized campaign against them by one of Nashville's more influential (and social) sportswriters.

Thus Bill Belichick had entered the world rather typically as the son of a lifer. When he was a toddler, his family had already given up the lease on their house and put their furniture in storage, and his father was waiting for word on his next job. The head coach they had followed to Vanderbilt, an immensely popular man named Bill Edwards (William Steven Belichick was named both for Bill Edwards and for his father), was well connected in the world of coaching and liked by almost everyone, save apparently one or two Nashville sportswriters, but it was late in the year, and there were not a lot of openings.

It was a difficult moment. On Steve's tiny salary they had not been able to save any money, and they were hunkered down in a house they would soon have to vacate. They had no furniture-moving boxes filled with their possessions served as their tables and chairs. The phone, which was supposed to be ringing with job offers, did not ring. There was talk that Bill Edwards might be offered a job at North Carolina as an assistant to a man named George Barclay, and that if he were, Steve Belichick might become a part of his team, but it was still just talk. Time was running out. Finally a game plan was decided on, one that Jeannette Belichick helped formulate. They would pile everything they had into the car and drive east. Somewhere along the way, they would stop and call the Carolina people. If the job was there, they would continue on to Chapel Hill; if there was no word, they would leave the uncertain world of college coaching, head south, and Steve would try to find a job in Florida, coaching high school football.

In Knoxville, not quite halfway to Chapel Hill, the Belichick family pulled up alongside a restaurant, and Steve got out and called from a pay phone. The Carolina job was his. So they had continued to Chapel Hill, and the idea of coaching high school football was put aside, at least for the moment. The Belichick family loved Chapel Hill, and Steve always regretted that Carolina was not a perennial football power, but to his mind George Barclay was not that good a coach-it would have been better had Edwards been the coach, he thought. Chapel Hill lasted three years, 1953-55, before they were all once again fired.

From there Steve Belichick managed to get the job as an assistant coach at Navy. Bill was three years old when they went to Annapolis. Steve Belichick loved coaching there, loved coaching the midshipmen, and decided he would stay there permanently if he could. He did not long to be a head coach-he had seen how quickly they came and went, even when they were talented, like his friend Bill Edwards. He did not need the title or the power. He decided everything he needed was right there: a solid program (Navy still had nationally ranked teams in those days), great young men, an attractive community, wonderful colleagues. He was by all accounts a brilliant coach, an exceptional teacher, and arguably the best and most professional scout of his era. No one, it was said, could scout another team and break down their film quite like Steve Belichick; no one could pick up on a giveaway mistake of another team-say, a runner who involuntarily gave a small tip-off before the snap when he was going to get the ball-like Belichick.

He was one of those rare Americans who, though ambitious and exceptionally hardworking, knew when he had a deal that suited him, and had no urge for greener pastures, which in his shrewd estimate might in fact not be greener. Over the years he turned down countless other job offers, from other colleges and from the pros. When Bill Edwards, his great mentor and by then coach at Wittenberg College in Ohio, asked him to come there, he regretfully turned it down because it would be a step backward in terms of the strength of the program. When there was a chance to become the head coach of Navy, he told the committee that he liked the job he already had, thereby taking himself out of the running for head coach. He did another shrewd thing. At Chapel Hill he had become close to the Carolina basketball coach, the legendary Frank McGuire, who had taken a special liking to the Belichick family and especially to its three-year-old son. Basketball practice always stopped when Steve and Bill showed up, and someone was ordered to find a basketball, always brand-new, to roll out to Bill. When McGuire heard that the Belichicks were going to Navy, he told Steve to do what his friend Ben Carnevale, the basketball coach there, had done, which was to try and move up on a tenure track as a physical education instructor in addition to coaching. This would protect him from the volatility and uncertainty of the coach's life. Steve took the advice, and became an assistant professor first and then a tenured associate professor. That gave him something rare in the world of coaching, job security, and he ended up staying at Navy for thirty-three years under eight head coaches.

He taught thousands of players and younger coaches, many of whom went on to more prominent jobs, but in the end his greatest pupil was his son. He taught him many things, including what position to play-center, because the boy was smart and strong for his size, but he was not going to be very big, not on a football-player scale, and because, even more important, he was not going to be particularly fast. Steve knew that early on because Bill had heavy ankles-that was the first thing he looked for when he was recruiting, the ankles, because it was a tip-off on speed. Center was the right position for Bill because he was smart and would know the game, and a smart center who knew how to read a defense was always valuable. So, as a result, a particular repetitive sound, a kind of thudding, filled the Belichick house in Bill's teenage years: the sound of him centering the ball against a mat hanging from a wall in the basement. Another important thing Steve taught his son was how to scout and how to study film, which Bill Belichick started doing when he was about nine years old.

For if anyone had helped create the extraordinary coach who stood there, soaked in Gatorade, that evening of his third Super Bowl win (both Belichicks subsequently caught bad colds and suspected it was because of the shower), it was Steve Belichick. At that moment his son (still known as Billy to some of the players and coaches Steve had worked with during the Navy years) stood at the pinnacle of his profession. Others in the football world placed him in the pantheon of the NFL's greatest coaches. Maxie Baughan, one of the first men he worked under when he joined the league in 1975, a nine-time Pro Bowl player himself, and a longtime George Mien favorite, was one of the first players to pick up on Bill Belichick's brilliance when he was still a child-coach with the Colts back in 1975. After the third Super Bowl he placed Belichick among the elite three, a new trinity: Lombardi, Landry, and now Belichick. Others were more cautious and added the names of Paul Brown, George Allen, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, and Bill Walsh, among other immensely talented coaches, but of Belichick's excellence and originality and his place among the elite, there was no doubt, Ron Jaworski, who quarterbacked an earlier Eagle team to the Super Bowl in 1981 and eventually became ESPN's most knowledgeable football commentator, thought it was quite possible that Belichick was the best ever, because he had won three times in an era dramatically less congenial to creating a dynasty than before. In the past, there were two principal obstacles faced by a team once it became a champion. The first was the instinct to relax and not work as hard once you had won it all, to think that because you had just been the best, you were entitled to be the best again. The other was the League's draft, the fact that each year the weakest teams had the best shot at the very best players. In the modern era, when there were probably too many teams, the League had decided, consciously or unconsciously, on policies to keep the better teams and better organizations from dominating, and instead to make weaker organizations look better-in effect, to reward the weak and punish the strong. Now the schedule was rigged-the better you were, the tougher the schedule you faced.

The League, it was believed, wanted every team to come in as close to .500 with its record as possible. That was a dramatic change from the past. In addition, free agency and the salary cap worked against dynastic ambitions. Teams that did their scouting better than their competitors could not stockpile players as in the past, and it was harder than ever to keep a good bench, because if you won, other teams stole your starters and your backup people-those you were grooming, but who were probably a bit dissatisfied because they were not starting. The salary cap put a certain pressure on you as well, because as you won, your players felt, not without some justification, that they deserved more money, and it was hard to keep them all satisfied, so some of your role-playing athletes were snatched away at star-player salaries by your rivals. What Dallas, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco did in another era-create a powerful team and add to it systematically-was harder to do now. "There's a volatility to line-ups now that wasn't there before, before free agency and the cap, and no matter how good your organization is these days you're going to lose a number of your best players each year," Jaworski said. "That makes his accomplishments even more remarkable." Or as Bill Walsh, the celebrated architect and coach of the San Francisco 49ers in their glory years, and sometimes called The Genius, said admiringly of Belichick: "He's done it in an age when the dynasties are gone, unless you count the Patriots as a dynasty, which I think they are."

What football men, coaches and players alike, admired about him more than anything else was his ability to create a team in an age when the outside forces working against it seemed more powerful every year and where often the more talented a player was, the more he needed to display his ego, to celebrate his own deeds rather than team deeds. A fan could now watch truly bizarre scenes on Sunday-a player, his team down by four touchdowns, making a good catch and dancing around as if his team had just won the championship. Belichick, as much as anyone in football, tried to limit that, and to make New England win and behave at all times like a team. The most obvious example of that old-fashioned emphasis on team came in the first of New England's three Super Bowl victories. The League had asked him, according to tradition, whether he wanted to introduce his offensive or defensive team to both the crowd and the nation at the start of the game, and he had said, neither-he wanted to introduce the entire team. The League officials argued against it, because that was not the way it was done, and told him he had to choose. Belichick was nothing if not stubborn-stubborn when he was right and sometimes just as stubborn when he was wrong-and he refused to budge, so, finally, the League caved.

Out they had come, all the Patriots, joyously and confidently, and it was not just other players and coaches who got it immediately, that this introduction was something different, designed to show this was a team and everyone was a part of it. It was also understood by much of the vast television audience, exhausted not merely by players' excessive egos, but also by broadcasters who failed to blow the whistle on them. A great many people decided then and there that they would root for New England as kind of an homage to the game itself.


Excerpted from THE EDUCATION OF A COACH by DAVID HALBERSTAM Copyright © 2005 by The Amateurs Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Education of a Coach 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An entertaining book that covers the influences, mentors, and thinking processes that has shaped a truly great coach. Focuses on his upbringing, and how his father, a Navy offensive coordinator, taught him as a young teen to 'break down film' and discover an opponent's tendancies. Describes New England's approach in upsetting the Rams to win his first Super Bowl as a head coach (attack their strengths). Provides a roadmap for those wanting to be great at their craft as well as a sobering tale about how personal losses can arise where career demands get too intense. If you love football or sports strategy, you'll love this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
 I selected this book as my summer reading book because football is one of my favorite sports, and I am a big Patriots fan. I also thought it would be interesting to learn about how Bill Belichick became one of the best N.F.L coaches of today. I would not recommend this book to a high schooler because David Halberstam states a lot stats and facts, that a high school reader would get bored of. But, on the flip side, Belichick shows many traits that a high school students should have. For example, while he was working his way up, many other coaches did not believe in him and told him he would never make it due to his lack of social skills. However he had perseverance during those difficult times which made him the successful N.F.L coach he is today. Other ways important values are shown in this book is when Bill is having trouble with a player’s behavior and deals with the problem, showing good composure. However he knew when it was the right time to discipline the star player of the team. These values can teach a high school student how to become a better communicator when problems arise and how to never give up on their dreams.  This book did meet my expectations. I expected this book to state a lot of facts about Bill Belichick's prestigious career as a football coach. I expected this book to be in chronological order according to Bill's life. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
A private no frills personality makes it to the top of his profession on what seems to be his terms. Bill Belichick, sure to be a Hall of Famer is profiled in a very in depth but short read. He is a true example of how hard work and dedication to a profession can pay off in the biggest reward that occupation has to offer.Although it is an excellant profile as well as a great inside view of the coaching world it leaves one to wonder whether it is worth the sacrifices.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good read, though a bit thin on the football part. The book talks about his family and his upbringing to explain his personality. This information is worked into the tale. It is handled well, though is of marginal interest to me. I am interested in him as the coach of the Patriots, not what makes him tick.The part of the tale that deals with his actual football jobs is very superficial. I think that is due to Halberstam's lack of football interest/knowledge but also because Belichick still operates in the football world and can't be seen to be dishing and revealing too much.I wanted to know more from the coaches' perspective about the 2001 SB run, about the QB controversy with Bledsoe and Brady, about how the team was reportedly 'less than he thought' when he became HC. Very little of these issues were even discussed, let alone in any depth.Perhaps when he retires, there will be a more in depth book.
BratGirlC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think that this was an excellent description of a very private man. Thrown into the spotlight by being great at what he loved (coaching football) it shows why he is equal parts genius and hard worker. I love books that go into the history of an event or person to explain why something is the way it is, and this one did just that. It was definitely a book about the man, rather than a book about football.
AMson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Halberstam is a great writer; not in the vein of corporate assembly line or factory style output; but in the true sense of storytelling and conveyor of information in working man terms. He's no editor, his sentences seem to run on for lines upon lines, and his thoughts are often interjected with assumed thoughts and anecdotes. Having said that, this book was wonderful! It's a true work, from a man that excels at his craft- and it's obvious at his passion for writing.The Belichick side of this book is brilliant as well. At times, the storylines get bogged down by the sheer amount of names and dates and locations, but that is to be expected in an historical account of one mans career path.The insight into Bill Belichick is astounding and revealing. He's a man of strong character and foundations, and it shows in his successes and failures.I'm a big fan of the dealings with Belichick's personality and life views. As big a football fan as I am, I can find my football IQ fix in other areas. But for this book, and Halberstam delivered, I was more tuned in to the areas of Belichick's modus operandi, the ways in which he approached his trade, and the thoughts on networking and personnel management. I think it's important to know his off field details to be able to truly understand his on field persona and manner.Great book, a page turner for sure. I highly recommend this read, for any interested football fan who appreciates integrity, sportsmanship, morals, and a true essence of team.
meghayden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved that Halberstam didn't try to glam this up, but presented the info almost as dryly as Belichick would have himself. I wish there was more discussion of building the team, the role of other coaches, and whatever, but that's minor. An excellent read.
teddyballgame on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first read The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam in 2006 and was captivated by the life story of Bill Belichick. Belichick is truly the product of the perfect upbringing combined with hard work and intelligence. I just finished reading it again for a second time, and I got so much more out of it. I paid more attention to the various people Belichick was exposed to throughout his career. His life really demonstrates the importance of patience and surrounding yourself with successful people. Often the highest paying job is not the right path to take in life. Belichick always wanted more responsibility and exposure in his work, not necessarily more money. He also wanted to work with the best and brightest of his profession and learn as much as he could from these people.Overall, Halberstam does a great job in walking the reader through the key moments in Belichick's life that shaped who he is today. Is it an extensive biography? No. Does he provide large amounts of details in football strategy and key games? No. The goal of the book was to demonstrate how a successful coach in the modern day NFL learned his craft. In addition, it focused on key moments in his professional development that produced the man we see in front of the camera and on the sidelines every football Sunday.I highly recommend this book to football fans, Patriots fans, and anyone interested in learning about someone at the top of his profession and how he got there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suggest borrow first to decide if a keeper biographies of sports personalities have limited appeal as do many bios
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam is a great story of how Bill Belichick became one of the greatest coaches in N.F.L history. I selected this book as my summer reading choice because I love and play football. I'm also a huge patriots fan and wanted to learn more about the team and Coach Belichick. I also wanted to learn of how Bill Belichick became one of the greatest coaches in N.F.L history because one day I might want to try to be a football coach. I knew Bill Belichick was different then most coaches and I selected this book to learn more about how he is so different compared to other coaches. I would recommend this book to any high school reader that loves football. If you love football then you will love this book because it talks about famous coaches and players throughout the entire book. I also recommend the book even if you don't love football it teaches readers valuable lessons. For example the book teaches to never give up even when everyone doubts you and to be patient in life because great awards can come from it. So many people doubted Belichick but he kept pushing and eventually became a great N.F.L coach. Belichick also was a very patient man and had a lot of composure and because of that he was able to become a great mentor and coach to his players. The Education of a Coach met my expectations because I expected a great football book that taught about Belichick's career and how he became successful. The book also went above my expectations because I learned valuable life lessons that don't even have to do with football. Such as never giving up and having a lot of patience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A: I selected this book as my summer reading choice because football is one of my favorite sports. I also thought it would be interesting to learn about how Bill Belichick became one of the best N.F.L coaches of the modern football era. The final reason I selected this book is because I am a Patriots fan and wanted to learn more about my favorite players and their relationship with their coach. B: I would recommend this book to a high school reader because the story shows important values in life like perseverance and composure. Bill Belichick started coaching football when he was very young and worked his way up the ranks. While he was working his way up, many other coaches did not believe in him and told him he would never make it due to his lack of social skills. However he had perseverance during those difficult times which made him the successful N.F.L coach he is today. Other ways important values are shown in this book is when Bill is having trouble with a player’s behavior and deals with the problem for a while, showing good composure. However he knew when it was the right time to discipline the star player. These values can teach people how to become a better communicator when problems arise and how to never give up on their dreams. C: This book went above my expectations because I expected to just learn about football and great coaching which I did but I also learned important values in life in order to be successful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tell tom brady that he stinks you need to put julian edelman at qb
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I havn't read it yet. It seems very good and belichek is awesome, but isn't ot to early to write a biography on belichek? For all we know he could win a championship again............
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sfmays34 More than 1 year ago
Great book overall B+.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very quick reading, and fairly lite. I'm amazed that it's been written since Belichick is still coaching, but it is a pretty good biography of the guy. It does jump around a little...from his work, to his father growing up, etc. But towards the middle of the book or so, it is pretty much chronological. I am surprised that Romeo and Charlie have only one paragraph in the book, but it's not at all about the types of plays he made in games, but more of how he learned from his mistakes.