It must have been January of 2003. Could have been February. Doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that, somehow, I found myself in Bill Belichick’s office at Gillette Stadium explaining to him the dysfunctional chemistry on my team in the over-30 division of the Lakeville Men’s Basketball League.
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It was when I was acting out a profane exchange I’d had with a teammate over something that was obviously minor that I realized this story was amusing to Belichick. Or at least seemed to be.
He had that kind of “Go on…” expression on his face. So I went on. And finished.
And left the office that day with the realization that — at his core — Belichick loves to listen. Loves to know how things work. People. Is relentlessly curious. So curious that he’ll even listen to the lamentations of a C-level basketball hack complaining that having someone come over and set me a pick when I don’t need it only brings two more people into the area and makes it harder for me to drive to the hoop.
I don’t think our meeting that day helped Bill go on to become the greatest coach in NFL history. But it did give me that small insight into how he is away from the podium, in private.
“The Bill Belichick You Don’t Know” is the narrative podcast we’ve produced at NBC Sports Boston, part of the Sports Uncovered podcast series from NBC Sports, a series of narrative podcasts that go in-depth on legendary figures, seminal moments and cultural phenomena.
From the two-word fax announcing Michael Jordan’s return, to a retrospective on the seven-hour Flyers-Penguins NHL playoff game to the way the University of Oregon touched off a “fashion arms race” with its uniforms, these podcasts pull back the curtain by speaking directly to the people involved and letting them tell the story.
Which is what we found with our Belichick pod.
It’s well-documented that Belichick is — more often than not — a fairly reticent guy. He can talk a dog off a meat truck if the topic is football history or an arcane scheme or why left-footed punters have an advantage over righties. But for most of his 46 years in the NFL, he’s treated press obligations like drudgery that prevent him from doing more constructive things.
Like thinking. Planning. Scheming. Learning. Or listening. Even if it’s to a dummy talking about his men’s basketball league.
So the funny Bill Belichick, the playful Bill Belichick, the Bill Belichick who inspires fear, love, devotion, and loyalty in those who’ve worked with or for him is one we don’t see.
But in interviews with people like Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, Charlie Weis, Rob Ninkovich, and so many more you’ll hear never-before-told stories about the Bill Belichick you don’t know.
And by the time you’re done listening, you will know a lot more — not everything — but a lot more about the greatest coach in NFL history.