Book Review: "The Education of a Coach" by David Halberstam

This summer I was able to enjoy some reading. Unfortunately, the days are a little shorter once school started back up but finally getting around to accumulating my notes from each of the books. I strongly recommend "The Education of a Coach" by David Halberstam. He's a phenomenal writer and you get a good understanding of Bill Belichick. I found "The Inside Game. Race, Power, and Politics in the NBA" by Wayne Embry very interesting. His career is fascinating and you really get a feel for the changing landscape from the view of the front office throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s in the NBA. "The GM" by Tom Callahan chronicled the story of Ernie Accorsi who retired as the New York Giants GM. It steared clear of pretty much anything controversial but it was a good read. Last in this bundle was "The Draft" by Pete Williams. "The Draft" was a year inside the NFL's search for talent. Here are some of my notes from "The Education of a Coach."

"The Education of a Coach" by David Halberstam

-Halberstam really got into painting a picture of each of the coaches that influenced Belichick. His coach at Andover was Steve Sorota. Several interesting descriptions include:

"his power came from his intelligence, his subtlety, and his kindness, not from his position in hierarchy."

His headmaster hired him and gave him marching orders: "Your job is to teachnot to win a lot of football games." Sorota would say that was the perfect message.

Sorota loved coaching high school because "it was more important than college, because it took place at a more formative time in the boys' lives."

"The job of a good coach was to encourage a boy's better self, to let his confidence grow, but to do it ever so gently."

-Talking about Belichicks early days, they stressed how into film and learning he was. His friend Ernie Adams said Belichick "had the gift for it and he had the discipline, and he understood from the beginning the one great truth about fillm, that the more you ran it, the more you saw."

-This passage is classic Belichick. He changes game plans weekly and he adapts better than anyone. In 2003, he started 42 different players, which was a record for a division winner and won the superbowl. He broke that record in 2005 when he started 45 different players and won the division.

"A lot of players come in, and they've played at a high level, and so they think they know everything, because they've played at big time schools. But the truth is they don't know very much at all, because the game is always changing and because the systems are always changing. But Billy knew that already and that you had to adapt game by game; he knew that everything was always changing. That was one of the things that set him apart. And anothing thing was work ethic. It was always a great work ethic. You could always give him more - he always wanted more. He always wanted to get better. A lot of young wannabe coaches, they always want the stuff that has the glory to it - you can spot guys like that a mile away- but he was different, probably because of the way he had been raised, the way Steve had taught him, and because of the value system of the Naval Academy."

Maxie Baughan who was the first defensive coordinator Belichick worked under said he had a "great cognitive instinct." Outside of understanding facts, he understood what things meant. He could put himself in the other coaches shoes.

Ernie Adams describer being a coach in the NFL "it is a little like being in a high-wire act, with no net underneath you."

Al Groh described the divide between players and coaches in football as OOU and OO, one of us or one of them.

The describe a situation where Ron Meyer was fired in New England in the middle of the 1984 season after a player revolt. It was described this way:
"Formidabe, strong football players had landed at a franchise where the traditional sense of purpose, of winning, had long ago been lost, and in the struggle that ensued, the players had somehow taken power, not because they wanted to do anything with it, but because it was there and because it was easier to do things their way and to be in charge, rather than do the difficult things a series of coaches asked them to do."

"If you couldn't deal with the school bully when you were back in high school, its going to be very hard in the NFL"

Belichick mentions about a player that needs all kinds of personal attention is easier to get rid of because theres always an undertow there.

In New York they had two sets of rules, one of for the team and a different set for Lawrence Taylor. They were aware that Taylor played with such recklessness and free spirit that he couldn't turn it off. They didn't want to him to lose his edge or his love for the game. Once Taylor said in protest you "either get me on thursday or sunday". When Belichick would get his turn he wanted one set of rules and to surround himself with guys with character and talent.

At Cleveland, Belichick had to bring all of his own people in and couldn't bring anyone from the New York Giants where he was defensive coordinator. He started what the author called "Belichick University" which was a group of young men he spotted and would tutor. Most were like him, not great players from less than famous schools, but hungry to be part of the game that eluded them as boys. Rule number one was to put ego aside.

In evaluating Tom Brady out of college, they made an interesting character judgment. As he was sharing time with an underclassmen despite being 20-5 as a starter they noted that he handled the situation with savvy and maturity beyond his years. Rather than crack under the pressure of the media, fans, and some coaches wanting Drew Henson, he rose to meet the challenge.