FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Tony La Russa won 2,728 regular-season games and three World Series before retiring as a field manager in 2011. The Red Sox special assistant was 67 years old when he walked away from the St. Louis Cardinals’ dugout, wrapping up a Hall of Fame career -- and he’s still working in baseball now.
Bill Belichick turns 66 in April. The two legends happen to be old friends who have visited each other on the job, and La Russa believes Belichick can keep going.
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"I think he could do it as long as he wants to do,” La Russa said. “I think as long as his fire’s burning, and evidently, when you see the results he’s getting, he’s got that fire everyday, from the first day of the offseason, right now, 'til the next one. So, I never ask him. I don’t think he -- one thing you learn about him, he’s really in the present, right? It’s what happens today he’s all about. I wouldn’t try to distract him.
“I got a whole bunch of coaches that are friends that have gotten to know Bill, and we’re all amazed year in and year out, and I think we’re more amazed in this year than ever. The expectations coming back after winning the Super Bowl, slow start, the way they kept everything together and improved, and played a lot of tough games, come from behind -- I mean the guts of that team, and everything that he and his staff preach . . . It’s really, it’s a model for the rest of us.”
La Russa said he usually sends Belichick a text during the week, and a few days later he’ll respond.
“He just, he knows that he’s got 100 percent support,” La Russa said. “At the end of the year that was a tough loss but, still, you know, if you can feel good losing, that would be one of ‘em. Because they came back again and almost pulled it off. Sometimes you just give the other side credit and then they got outplayed in the end.”
The Red Sox are no strangers to controversies and media storms, but the Patriots have been the center of everyone’s attention, locally and nationally. Can La Russa empathize?
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"I think what you learn is you know the media’s a big part of the environment that you choose to be involved with as a coach, player, staff member, whatever, the manager,” La Russa said. “If that bothers you, you got to do something else for a living. No free lunch. All the attention means a lot of people are paying attention and your revenue for the sport and it gets into players’ pockets and coaches do pretty well.
“I think the environment now is, you win, you’re going to get some credit. You lose, somebody’s going to say you should’ve done that differently. Bill’s really strong and he keeps a strong team and I didn’t see any excuses. I think he just gave credit to the Eagles and that’s the way it should be.”
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But . . . should Malcolm Butler have been in there?
“Well, I think the coach has proven that whatever his decisions are, he’s doing for the best for the team," La Russa said. "And I’ll go with the coach.”