The Education of a Coach Paperback – Aug 8 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
With the snappy delivery of a play-by-play commentator, Conger ably performs Halberstam's reverent biography of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Chronicling Belichick's tutelage at the hands of his sharp college coach father, Halberstam moves through Belichick's trail of internships and promotions, augmenting his narrative with engaging anecdotes and succinct illustrations of the tactical genius that propelled him through the ranks of the NFL. Conger doesn't have to stretch much in terms of characterization; he's simply a good choice for the project, with a smart, clean delivery that goes just as well with a description of a tender exchange between Belichick and his father as it does with a detailed breakdown of the Patriots' unorthodox defensive strategy in the Super Bowl. The production's one shortcoming is the strange choice of musical snippets for the beginnings and endings of different sections. None of the widely varied music fits in very well with the reading and proves to be much more of a puzzling distraction than an effective accompaniment. Still, it's not enough to overshadow an engrossing portrait of one of the NFL's best coaches, or a reading that hits just the right note.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Bill Belichick is the head coach of the New England Patriots and a second-generation descendant of a determined Croatian immigrant family. The Pats have won three of the last four Super Bowls, an extraordinary accomplishment in an NFL that is structured to prevent extended dominance by one team. Celebrated investigative journalist Halberstam, who likes to do a sports book now and then, was first drawn to Belichick when he was a young linebacker coach with the New York Giants in the mid-eighties. He tells Belichick's story as part of the larger context of his family's acclimation to America during the Depression, and he spends as much time on Belichick's high-school and college years as he does on his career as a professional coach. Belichick learned his trade early on (his father was a football coach, too) and began breaking down opponents' film when he was nine years old. The natural affinity for x's and o's meshed with a passion for the game and, as Halbertsam tells it, produced a brilliant tactician and an effective leader who draws from the styles of other coaches he has encountered in his career, from a my-way-or-the-highway high-school coach to Andover Academy's Steve Sorota, the quintessential player-empowering coach-as-teacher. As he's done in the past, Halberstam takes the classic sports-bio formula--one stellar performer's rise to the pinnacle of American sport--and transforms it into a nuance-rich story of individual triumph and social history. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is not a simple "How To" book. Halberstam is too good an author for mere outline. From his heritage, through his youth to his evolution as a head coach in the NFL Halberstam details Belichick's environment and the development of Belichick's philosophy or strategy that he brings to the game of football.
Belichick studied game films hard. He put in extra hours. He became and expert in his field. He understood the importance of being organized, networked and professional in everything you do. Belichick is a master at thoroughly researching and understanding your opponent before beating them. While this book is a great sports read .... dig a little bit deeper and you have a great how to succeed in business book on your hands here.
A must read for anyone who likes to win.
The only shortcoming from the book was that I was hoping to hear a little bit more from Belichick the man himself ... Perhaps more first hand accounts of his low points (being fired at Cleveland) to his successes (first Super Bowl win over the Rams). Nonetheless, a great read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I would have given the book another star had it gone more into Belichick's personality. But Halberstam told sportsradio WEEI hosts that Belichick did not want this book to be about an ego trip for him. It's too bad because Halberstam never caught Belichick with his guard down. You have to think that Belichick really doesn't want anyone in the public to know him too well. It's almost as if there is an ending waiting be written. You don't find out about Belichick's relationships with Charlie Weis, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft, et al.
Still, it's a great read. You do get enough to understand the contempt Belichick has for Art Modell and an understanding of why he left the Jets and Bill Parcells to go to New England. His decisions, his confidantes, his championships all make sense after you read this book.
The first part of the book dealing with Bill's dad, Steve, was the part that I found the most interesting. I knew that he's always been considered a superior scout, but it was great to see how he got to that point. Same goes for Bill's entry into the coaching ranks, and the preparation he did even before then to make himself into the great coach he would eventually become.
Where the book fails, in my opinion, is in its exploration of relationships. It talks somewhat of the Parcells-Belichick relationship, but there seems to be a lot left unspoken. Same with that of Parcells and Kraft, or Belichick and his current coaches, or even guys like Weis and Crennel who only recently left.
Halberstam has given what I believe is a look at only one slice of Belichick's life, and there still seems to be room for a more complete look at this great coach. I'd like to hear more first-person comments from other coaches, former coworkers, and current or former players.
I definitely recommend this book, both for the look at Belichick and because Halberstam is a pleasure to read. However, don't expect to learn much about the coach himself, as that will likely be left for another book.
Halberstam tells us that Belichick entered the world as the son of a lifer. He was the son of former Navy football coach and scout, Steve Belichick, who was once considered the preeminent football scout in the country. His father, however, never made much money and never enjoyed much fame outside the "hermetically sealed" world of coaching. And he lived (as did the family) with the special uncertainty of a coach - a world without guarantees. Steve felt the job of a good coach was to encourage a boy's better self, to let his confidence grow and to do it ever so gently.
Bill Belichick, well beyond his years in understanding football, went on to Weslyan, a small college in New England. While he played football, he had difficulty, as his size and lack of speed worked against him. He also played lacrosse and enjoyed it immensely, mostly because he admired the coach. The coach had no real knowledge of the game but knew exactly how to handle his players and how to listen to them and use them well. He learned then that players respected coaches who could help them play better and who knew things they did not know. Respect did not flow from a loud and commanding voice, but rather knowledge.
"The Education of a Coach" also details Belichick's early years in the NFL. When he entered the league, he had been a young man teaching older men. He needed to prove to them he was an authority figure so he remained more aloof and more authoritarian than most coaches or teachers working their first jobs. And since he was not imposing in physical terms, he would have to make up for his size by dint of willpower. He was most comfortable with a stern game face - being serious and completely disciplined. Many wondered if there was a time when Belichick ever laughed and relaxed.
Over the years, the back-channel word on Belichick was that he was a brilliant coordinator but doomed to be that and nothing more. When he got the New England head coach position, Belichick knew that this might be his last best chance.
Halberstam details key relationships and turning points in Belichick's career including the complicated relationship he had with Bill Parcells, one that was beneficial but different for both men; a defining moment with the Giants Gary Jeter when Jeter issued a challenge to a young Belichick, with Belichick granting his wish to Jeter's regret; the impact of Al Davis' rating players everyday to keep both players and coaches alert allowing no one to rest on the past; and many of uncommonly talented men who had been wonderful teachers.
Belichick is driven by brain power and by his fascination with the challenge that pro football represented to the mind of the coach as well as the bodies of the players. And, along the way, Belichick, a lifer, has always understood and taught that residence at top was a product of good fortune as well as talent, planning and willpower.
Those interested in Bill Belichick, the emergence of the New England Patriots as a NFL powerhouse, leadership development, or professional football will thoroughly enjoy "The Education of a Coach." Halberstam captures this and more.
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