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The Education of a Coach [Paperback]

David Halberstam , David Maraniss
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 8 2006
More than 6 years after his death David Halberstam remains one of this country's most respected journalists and revered authorities on American life and history in the years since WWII. A Pulitzer Prize-winner for his ground-breaking reporting on the Vietnam War, Halberstam wrote more than 20 books, almost all of them bestsellers. His work has stood the test of time and has become the standard by which all journalists measure themselves.

Bill Belichick's thirty-one years in the NFL have been marked by amazing success--most recently with the New England Patriots. In this groundbreaking book, THE EDUCATION OF A COACH, 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.

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The Education of a Coach + Patriot Reign: Bill Belichick, the Coaches, and the Players Who Built a Champion + War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer-winning journalist and author Halberstam focuses on Bill Belichick, one of the NFL's most successful coaches, and the game of football as a team sport with rich detail, exacting research and colorful anecdotes. He reveals what fans of the head coach of the New England Patriots have always known: the roots of Belichick's coaching lie in the essential mentoring by his father, an excellent teacher and college coach who taught his son how to scout players and teams, instructing the author on how to study films of players when he was just nine years old. As an assistant coach working with Bill Parcells's New York Giants in the 1980s, Belichick's "football first" credo was born of precision and discipline. He went on to guide the Patriots to win three Super Bowls in four years (2002, 2004 and 2005). Halberstam brings to his seventh sports book an encyclopedic knowledge of football, a firm grasp on the inner workings of effective coaching, an understanding of the systematic roles of the players and a shrewd psychological analysis of Belichick himself as a man and team leader. His book reminds readers that "residence at the top [is] as much a product of good fortune as it [is] of talent, willpower and planning." (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding What It Takes to Be Number One..... March 5 2007
Format:Hardcover
Whether it's business or football you can always learn something from a Winner. Bill Belichick is a winner.

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.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  111 reviews
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What drives Bill Belichick Nov. 25 2005
By Mark Twain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Halberstam does a nice job explaining how Bill Belichick became a great coach and what drives him. In light of the passing Bill's father Steve, this book is a tribute to his father, a great coach and strategist and what Bill picked up from his father on how to win. Most people think of Bill Belichick as part of a Bill Parcells coaching tree. But this book explains that Belichick is the Paul Brown to Parcells' Lombardi and how Belichick built relationships and learned to build an organization on his way to becoming a coach that wins games by breaking down an opponent as opposed to imposing his will on the opposition.

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.
47 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating, if incomplete, look at a great coach Nov. 14 2005
By Craig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Considering the oustanding work Halberstam had done with The Teammates and Summer of '49, I was highly anticipating this release since first hearing of it months ago. And while it turned out be enjoyable, I just feel like there's so much more that could have been explored or explained.

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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Belichick, Parcells, Leadership Development, The NFL and More Jan. 14 2007
By Thomas M. Loarie - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
One of today's great authors, David Halberstam, has written a gem of a book detailing the `process of becoming Bill Belichick,' one of the best football minds ever in the National Football League (NFL). Belichick is the head coach of the New England Patriots NFL team and the winner of three Super Bowls.

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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment June 7 2006
By Paul Wiseman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
David Halberstam is one of America's finest journalists. But he's not on top of his game here. A pity: The Bill Belichick story is amazing. The New England Pariots coach has defied the zeitgeist and put together a genuine team at a time when sports are dominated by superstar egos. He has built a dynasty in an era of tepid parity - when last season's Super Bowl contender is gutted by free-agency and misses this season's playoffs. He is bold and innovative in a sport where most coaches favor cover-your-butt tactics. As an Indianapolis Colts fan, heartbroken almost annually by Belichick's genius, I was looking forward to learning how he does it. And Halberstam (whose The Breaks of the Game is my favorite sports book) seemed the right choice to tell the story. But "The Education of a Coach" fell well short of my expectations. Halberstam skims the surface instead of digging deep and sometimes makes odd authorial decisions. In writing about Belichick's disastrous tenure as Cleveland Browns coach and his unpopular decision to bench QB Bernie Kosar, for instance, Halberstam neglects even to tell which quarterback replaced Kosar. And yet he feels it necessary earlier in the book to take a gratuitous swipe at a 1950s Nashville Tennessean sports columnist whose role in the Belichick saga is peripheral at best. He barely mentions key characters such as Belichick assistants Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis - and touches only briefly on the young acolytes who are graduates of "Belichick University." Throughout part of the book, Halberstam cuts back and forth between the story of Bill Belichick and the story of his father, a legendary coach and scout in his own right. But the time-fractured narrative is confusing and repetitive. Sometimes you get the sense that Halberstam doesn't really understand football. An anecdote about a "chop block", for instance, is almost incomprehensible and made me wonder if Halberstam knew what he was talking about. There's still plenty to like here. I especially enjoyed a mini-profile of Belichick's buddy and assistant Ernie Adams - a true football nerd (like Belichick) who as a teenager once barged into an opposing high school team's locker room after a game (still in uniform) to get the coach to autograph a copy of "Simplified Single Wing Football.'' Bill Parcells emerges, as I long suspected, as a complete (but talented) jerk, whose relationship with Belichick was painful but mutually beneficial. Halberstam also does a good job describing the treacherous politics of coaching football - and how even the best coaches can be undone by events over which they have no control. Overall, this book gives you a good general idea what makes Bilichick so successful. What's missing are the detailed anecdotes and authoritative writing that usually are Halberstam trademarks.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Belichick and Halberstam go together like nuts and gum Dec 10 2005
By Wheelchair Assassin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First of all, a personal note: as someone who's been watching the Patriots religiously since age 11 (the not-so-glorious, mercifully short-lived Rod Rust era), I probably can't lay much of a claim to objectivity when reviewing this book. But, I'm going to try it anyway, so you may want to consider the source.

Now, that having been said, David Halberstam's The Education of a Coach is one monstrously enjoyable and interesting read. Centering around current New England Patriots coach and three-time Super Bowl champ Bill Belichick, it's not so much a biography as an examination of what's propelled one man to the top of the notoriously difficult profession of football coaching. Halberstam hasn't set himself an easy task, as The Education of a Coach is a book about a football coach that clearly aims for a much larger audience than fans of the sport--hardcore football freaks will occasionally have to put up with explanations of relatively basic concepts like blitzing--but it's still worth reading for all the insight that Halberstam brings to his subject. He's not so much examining the nuts and bolts of football, as there are plenty of books you can already turn to for that; nor is Halberstam aiming to provide a complete summation of Belichik's life in the sport, as several years of his career (notably his tenure with the Jets) are more or less glossed over. Rather, what Halberstam is going for is a view of the qualities that allowed Bill Belichick--who never played professional football and had a mediocre stint as coach of the Cleveland Browns before taking the Patriots' head job--to succeed where so many other smart and dedicated men had failed.

One of the best qualities of Halberstam's sportswriting is his ability put everything he writes about into some sort of larger context, and The Education of a Coach is no exception. By now, everyone who's paid attention knows that Belichick's father Steve had a profound influence on his son's career path, so the book starts in Steve's formative years, allowing the reader to get an idea of the experiences and ideals he passed along to Bill. There are sketches of some of the other key players in Belichick's coaching life as well--longtime assistant Ernie Adams, Giants mentor Ray Perkins, and of course Bill Parcells and Tom Brady most notably--but again, all of the biographical details feed into the larger purpose of illuminating the harsh realities of modern-day pro football and the staggering demands placed on its coaches. Football, especially now, and especially at the professional level, is a game of contrasts: the influx of black athletes starting about fifty years ago and intensifying since has made the sport faster, tougher, and harder-hitting, but at the same time it's acquired a level of sophistication that would've been inconceivable back in the days when football was little more than a glorified brawl. Pro football is now in an age where 300 pounds isn't even considered heavy at some positions, where a quarterback like Michael Vick can be the fastest guy on the field *and* toss the ball 50 yards with a flick, and where coaches sleep in their offices as a matter of course. In other words, the job of a coach has become professional in every sense, with those who climb to the top of the ladder pretty much obligated to devote their lives to little else.

What Halberstam especially tries to hammer home is the way Belichick, against the backdrop of football's geometric growth in terms of complexity and precision, managed to create a team that could function as a cohesive unit, especially given all the pressures in the direction of mounting individualism, namely big-money contracts and incredibly saturating TV exposure. Now, Halberstam does overstate his case somewhat in trying to posit Belichick as a uniquely successful proponent of the team concept--the last three NBA championships have been won by the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, who are also known for their unselfish ethic--but his lengthy illustrations of Belichick's successes (and failures) as a coach still go a long way toward illuminating what goes on behind the scenes in pro sports. In the later chapters, Halberstam finally gets to the philosophy that enabled Belichick to turn the Patriots into a dynasty in an era where the NFL does everything it can to discourage extended dominance. Not only does Halberstam address some of the team's more effective in-game strategies (the kind that made the Patriots seemingly the only team able to regularly stop Peyton Manning, this year's game notwithstanding), but he describes in depth the New England organization's emphasis on getting the kind of players who coud be relied upon to carry out those strategies. Granted, many of the most important contributors to the team's current run--Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Adam Vinatieri, and Troy Brown among them--were carryovers from previous regimes, but what's most notable to Halberstam is how these players were made to mesh with new additions, many of them castoffs from other organizations, to create an efficient, businesslike group that valued the end result (namely winning) above all else.

What enabled Belichick to become such a stunningly singular success in such a challenging field, Halberstam discovers, is the rare combination of a mind ideally suited to coaching, a background ideally suited to developing that mind, and an obsessive work ethic ideally suited to making the most of his intelligence and training. Belichick followed a career path many of us normal people would consider insane-despite a degree from Wesleyan that clearly provided him with plenty of options, Belichick spent his first few years after college on the bottom rungs of the professional football ladder, working long hours at unpublicized jobs for little (if any) pay. But as Halberstam makes clear, even at that early point Belichick demonstrated the incredible memory, adaptability and attention to detail that eventually put him on the top of the NFL's coaching heap. Belichick has earned a reputation as the most analytical of coaches; Halberstam shows a similar gift for analysis by putting into perspective just what such a description implies and what's necessary to achieve it in the first place.
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