Curran: Belichick's legacy building

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Curran: Belichick's legacy building

FOXBORO In less than three months, Bill Belichick turns 60.

He is 139-53 as head coach of the Patriots. Hes 175-97 overall. He is 16-6 in the playoffs overall and 15-5 in the playoffs as head coach of the Patriots. Hes won four conference championships and three Super Bowls. Hes coached the Patriots in five conference championship games and has been a head coach or assistant in the Super Bowl seven times. His coaching record in conference championship games with the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Patriots again is 7-2. Hes won 11 division championships as a head coach.

Chuck Noll, who coached 23 seasons in Pittsburgh and won four Super Bowls had a record of 109-64-1 in his first 11 years with the Steelers. His career record was 193-148-1. His career playoff record was 16-8.

Don Shula the all-time winningest head coach with a record of 328-156-6 coached six conference champions between Baltimore and Miami and won two Super Bowls.

In 10 years as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Bill Walsh won three Super Bowls, three conference championships, won the division three times and was 10-4 in the playoffs.

In nine seasons as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi was 89-24-4 and won five championships (three NFL titles and two Super Bowls). He was 9-1 in the playoffs.

Paul Brown? He was 213-104-9 in 25 seasons as a head coach. In his 17 years in charge of his eponymously named team the Browns, he was 158-48-8, won three NFL titles and four All-American Football Conference championships.

Thats your coaching Mount Rushmore (with two extra heads for good measure).

We all enjoy the endless argument about who the greatest quarterback of all-time was or is Montana, Elway, Unitas, Brady, Manning, Bradshaw or, for contrarians, Otto Graham.

But we never seem to get around to debating whether or not Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach to ever stalk an NFL sideline.

The case is easily made that, in this era of free agency and a hard salary cap with more teams and more games its harder now than it was when Lombardi and Brown set the standard.And yet Belichick has built a dynasty in New England despite that.
Thats not to discredit either Brown a man Belichick reveres or Lombardi.Its just different now. And different from when Shula, Noll and Walsh accomplished so much as well.

The players are different. The media attention is different. The headaches are different.

On Sunday, Bill Belichick will have the chance to get to another Super Bowl. A win over the Ravens and he will once again have a chance to tie Noll with his fourth Super Bowl win.

That he coached an undefeated team in that game four seasons ago and lost in the final two minutes; that he had a chance to author a 19-0 season and saw the manuscript fall in the fire must, on some level, make his stomach churn still.

So does the fact that 2007 season was played under the dark cloud of a videotaping scandal. As offenses go, it was the football equivalent of going 95 mph in a 65 zone when you know a cop is sitting there with his radar gun out. Yet the spin turned it from aggravated speeding into coaching treason, in part because the Patriots and Belichick lost control of the narrative and let imaginations and accusations run wild.

Its a stain and its a blight and the nature of things in 2012 is that it is used to discredit Belichicks legacy while, say, Nolls record in Pittsburgh with a fleet of roided up stars never comes under the same scrutiny.

And it is about legacy now for Belichick. Hes been a coach in the league for 36 of his 59 years. Its all hes ever known professionally. Hes risen to the top and hes remained at the top even if he hasnt done it in a way thats universally embraceable.

Reading the biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson, I found a paragraph near the end of the book.

It reads, The nasty edge to his personality was not necessary. It hindered him more than it helped him. But it did, at times, serve a purpose. Polite and velvety leaders, who take care to avoid bruising others, are generally not as effective at forcing change. Dozens of the colleagues who Jobs abused most ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible. And he created a corporation jammed with 'A' players.

Having worked closely as a media member with Belichick for his entire time in New England, Im not sure hes as nasty as Jobs could be. But he can be brusque and intolerant. And he is a control freak of the highest order.

But, like Jobs, it is because of his unremitting desire to perfect his product, i.e. his football team. He wants his employees in a cocoon that he can manage, because outside the cocoon is the potential (real and imagined) for distraction from the goal of winning championships.

Leading into last weeks game against the Broncos, I said to one Patriot, You guys need to relax and just play. You get too uptight in this locker room.

Relax? the player said. You know who we work for, right?

Theres been an interesting dynamic with this years team. While Belichick has always been very free with praise for his best teams and is quick to make sure the players are credited first, Belichick has for the first time I can remember given a nod publicly to the challenge of working for him.

After a win against the Eagles three days after Thanksgiving, Belichick said, "I think our players, yeah, they've given good effort. I think they're trying to do the things we tell them to do. I think sometimes weve got to do better and coach better and have things maybe a little cleaner for them, but I think they're trying to do their part in terms of physically and mentally, day after day, week after week, be consistent, be dependable and do what we ask them to do.

I know we demand a lot and this isn't an easy place to play and I'm not an easy guy to play for, but they have tried to respond. I give them a lot of credit for that, Belichick concluded.

After the win over the Broncos last week, Belichick was effusive in his praise again and added a caveat to his opening remarks.

I just can't say enough about the players today, he began. " . . . It's been a lot of hard work this year, but I'm really happy for the players. I'm really excited for them. They deserved it. They've worked hard, they've put up with me, so they deserve this.

There will be a day and it may come in the next 10 years when Belichick puts on a yellow blazer and stands in front of a crowd in Canton, Ohio as hes enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Mark my words, my players will be the first people he thanks for the honor.

But there is a self-awareness, it seems, that has made him acknowledge that hes a tough boss. That playing for him is a unique chore.

As with Jobs, Belichick got them to do things they never dreamed possible. And he created a corporation jammed with 'A' players.

And that is the legacy Bill Belichick is authoring even now.

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

NEW ORLEANS – All-star weekend is winding down and the Boston Celtics once again are seemingly at the epicenter of most trade discussions.

That’s in part because they have the pieces to help pull off a blockbuster deal for themselves, or become the third team to help facilitate a trade coming to fruition. 

But in talking with league executives and scouts this weekend in New Orleans, all agree that the Celtics are focused more on making a blockbuster-type move, rather than a deal that could make them slightly better than they are now. 

“Anything is possible as you know,” said one Eastern Conference executive. “But they’re not Toronto which is basically 'all in' this year to try and get past Cleveland. Boston’s in the thick of it all, but not pressed to do anything unless it makes them a lot better and to be frank, there aren’t a lot of those potential deals out there for them.”

That’s because the Celtics (37-20) have the second-best record in the East despite their preferred starting five (Isaiah Thomas; Avery Bradley; Jae Crowder; Al Horford and Amir Johnson) having played a very limited number of games (21) together thus far this season.

Even when everyone’s healthy, Boston understands that they still may not be enough to get past the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. So the addition of a likely role player at the cost of one or more of their major assets (this year’s right to swap picks with Brooklyn or next year’s Brooklyn pick outright), is reason enough for Boston to pause and assess whether the benefit outweighs the cost of what they will have to give up. 

Boston can make a push for Denver’s Danilo Gallinari or his teammate Kenneth Faried who are both available and would help Boston’s overall talent base. They could also revisit Jahlil Okafor discussions or Nerlens Noel with Philadelphia, too.

But for what they need to significantly improve upon where they are now, they have to add a game-changing difference-maker to the mix. 

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Indiana’s Paul George and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins are three players who on paper at least, would meet that criteria. 

Multiple league sources this weekend confirmed that each of their respective teams isn’t making a push to trade them. But like every team in the league, they will certainly listen to any and all offers. Only Indiana and Sacramento have come out publicly to say they are not planning to trade their players, with the Pacers indicating they’re willing to give up their first-round pick in order to add a stable, proven talent to the mix in order to help George going forward. 

Meanwhile, the Bulls have been somewhat indifferent to potentially moving Butler, who is playing his third all-star game tonight. 

That’s why several teams, the Celtics included, have inquired about Butler’s availability. While the Bulls haven’t set any specific parameters, league executives believe they are seeking some combination of high draft picks and young veterans (players with experience who are either near the end of their rookie deals or have team-friendly contracts) just to consider moving Butler.

Boston has exactly what the Bulls are looking for if they decide they are going to move on from Butler and rebuild, but how much are the Celtics willing to give up?

That more than anything else, is what will ultimately determine if a deal between the Bulls and the Celtics comes to pass. Boston loves Butler, and believes he could be part of their continued surge towards becoming an elite team that can bring home Banner 18. But the Celtics are not convinced that the addition of Butler would necessarily catapult Boston to the same level of Cleveland or ahead of them. 

Even if the Celtics decide to stand pat with its team as they are now and let the Feb. 23 trade deadline pass without making a move, the Celtics are still working from a vantage point that few teams in the NBA can work from – a team near the top of their conference with relatively young players all with good team-friendly contracts, and draft picks in the next two years that are each likely to be high lottery (top-14) picks.

"They’re well positioned for the future,” said Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the West all-star team. “Because of the young talent, because of the coach (Brad Stevens) and because of the draft picks that they have coming up. They could end up with the number one pick in the draft which is remarkable.”

Kerr added, “That doesn’t happen often when you’re talking about a team that’s one of the best in the league already. Boston’s in a great place.”

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes.