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Tony La Russa understands the Bill Belichick few others see


Maybe it just takes a genius to appreciate a genius.

Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa (the oracle of the George Will/bow tie/baseball as life-explaining-myth set) can go on and on about Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

The two are close friends, and La Russa was recently at Patriots minicamp, and had a chance to catch up with his buddy and see the side few others see.

He talked to ESPN Boston Radio on Friday (via Mike Reiss of and shared some of his insight into the self-created mystery of Belichick.

“I get a big kick out of the perception publicly -- all the media, and mostly the fans, because they don’t see [and] he doesn’t give you much,” LaRussa said. “He’s not there to draw attention to himself. But if you get in a social situation around Bill, he’s got so much personality. He’s interesting. He’s funny. He’s a great friend. I can’t respect our relationship more than I do. He’s about as good a friend as you can expect to have. . . .

“If you go to dinner, you’re going to talk about a lot of subjects. It’s real apparent that Bill has no ego. He’s not there to impress you on his championships. He’s just sharing and asking. He shares with guys he knows are interested. It’s like going to graduate school times 100.”

La Russa said Belichick has given no indication he’s nearing the end of his coaching career, and said the 60-year-old coach impressed him with how invested he was in preparations for this season.

In discussing the common ground they shared, La Russa mentioned how the money in professional sports runs counter to the team-building ideal, but that Belichick has shown an ability to push through it with the Patriots.

“You have guaranteed money, guaranteed security, so what you have to fight through is guys thinking about themselves, to remember they’re playing on a team, and you have to keep their hunger up no matter what their contract’s saying,” La Russa said. “I know nobody has done it better than Bill, year in and year out -- the team concept they have when they compete so fiercely, and to compete together. I’m here [at ESPN] and talking to Tedy Bruschi, and we’re telling Bill stories. He’s got it. I’m sure people in the Boston area, as closely as they watch, they know how fortunate they are.

“Just don’t get fooled by him just coaching and not giving a lot of information in press conferences. He gives a lot of information to his team.”

The success of his teams makes that part evident, as clear as the fact Belichick may never be interested in revealing himself to any outside his tight circle of friends.