Most people only know one version of Bill Belichick, the no-nonsense side of the hoodie-wearing head coach who stares daggers from the sidelines and offers only curt responses to reporters.
Sure, his public persona can be a bit prickly at times, but that’s only when he’s in front of the cameras. According to his pal Tony La Russa, Belichick is actually kind of a sweetheart.
Tony La Russa talks friendship with Bill Belichick
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“Most people know him from the press conferences and his demeanor during the games,” La Russa tells Metro. “I always think that they would welcome and be really impressed with how human he is.”
“He has no ego, he doesn’t walk around like, ‘Hey, I’m a big shot,’” adds the former Cardinals manager. “He is absolutely entertaining, funny, smart.”
La Russa, now a fellow member of the Boston sports community after joining the Red Sox as vice president and special assistant to Dave Dombrowski, will reunite with Belichick this weekend at the 5th annual Hall of Fame Huddle. Hosted by the Bill Belichick Foundation, Friday’s event will feature an intimate discussion about sports and more with former Yankees manager Joe Torre and Hall of Fame slugger Jim Thome, as well as raise funds to support student athletes across the nation.
La Russa became friends with Belichick thanks to “Friday Night Lights” author Buzz Bissinger, a former classmate of the Patriots head coach, while working together on the book “Three Nights in August.” Bissinger was inspired to introduce La Russa to Belichick as he thought they had a lot in common and “would hit it off.”
“He made the introduction and it’s one of the nicest things that’s happened to me,” La Russa recalls. “Our friendship is very special to me.”
As a coach, La Russa has nothing but praise for his friend, noting how he has the unique ability to form special bonds with each and every person on his roster and staff.
“This is something I’ve appreciated and learned from,” says La Russa. “Bill doesn’t talk about it publicly, but he starts with building a relationship on a personal and professional basis.”
As someone who’s led three different World Series-winning squads over the years, La Russa knows just how hard it is to consistently field championship caliber teams each season. That’s why he’s been blow away by Belichick’s ability to win with the Patriots year after year.
“It’s hard to win once, but to repeat that winning formula relentlessly, that goes beyond the credit that you can give,” La Russa says. “Whether it’s a player you can’t reach, or even as a coach, you have one year where you just lose an edge, but not with Bill.”
But most of all, La Russa admires Belichick for his humility and sense of humor off the field.
“He’s more going to ask about you then he’s going to be talking,” says La Russa.“You really got to push him to talk about himself.”
“When somebody says something funny, he laughs as hard as anybody,” he adds. “I think that’s a side I gladly share because people can, I hope, trust me and know Bill’s a really good guy. He’s a great friend.”