Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Halberstam Discusses New Book on Bill Belichick ’71

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and celebrated author David Halberstam kicked off the tour for his new book, The Education of a Coach, last Friday at Andover by holding a question and answer session open to the Andover community. As the author of twenty books, fourteen of them bestsellers, Mr. Halberstam has covered topics ranging from sports to history to politics and has received the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for his reporting on the Vietnam War. His newest book is a profile of New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick ’71. Joining Mr. Halberstam was Ernie Adams ’71, the Patriots’ Director of Operations and a classmate of Mr. Belichick’s from his years as a student at PA. The two men answered questions ranging from what the most challenging aspect of coaching a modern football team is (“There’s just so much money involved,” said Adams), to the inner workings of Mr. Belichick’s psyche. Chair of the Department of History and Social Science Peter Drench and Director of Athletics Martha Fenton presided over the discussion. Mr. Drench opened up the discussion by asking Mr. Halberstam how he was able to persuade Mr. Belichick to agree to have a biography written about him. The author said that Mr. Belichick already had a thought or two about such a book in the far corners of his mind. According to Mr. Halberstam, Education of a Coach is about what Mr. Belichick “thinks should be known [about him].” In response to a question about whether or not he thinks there are any connections between football and war, Mr. Halberstam compared the two, saying that while both require brains and brawn, football is mostly about money while war is about survival. Another question from an audience member addressed the physical and emotional burden of being a coach and questioned Belichick’s constant appearance of exhaustion and fatigue. Mr. Adams replied, “If you want to [coach a professional football team] well or right, it’s gonna take a hundred hours a week.” He went on to say that being a professional football coach is a great job, but passion is essential to it. Otherwise, success is impossible. One audience member asked about the recent movement towards more intellectually-oriented coaching staffs. Mr. Halberstam said that it is essentially an issue of money. “As the price of each play goes up, you better be smarter about it; mistakes are becoming increasingly expensive,” he said. Mr. Halberstam, who has watched Mr. Belichick coach for over twenty years, said that he has always found Mr. Belichick to be a very smart an interesting man, as well as “very un-coach like.” One aspect of Mr. Belichick that Mr. Halberstam always found intriguing was his attitude, especially towards losing. He said that Mr. Belichick steps forward when things go badly, but not when things go well and that he is one of those people that feeds off of failure. In addition, according to Mr. Halberstam, Mr. Belichick always carries the responsibility of games, win or lose, never blaming any of the players or his assistants. After a mutual friend introduced the two, Mr. Halberstam approached Mr. Belichick about the prospect of writing a biography, and Education of a Coach was the result. Many attendees bought a copy of the book and stayed after the discussion to have it signed. All of the proceeds go to Andover’s Hurricane Disaster Relief.