Brad Stevens, Alex Cora, and Bruce Cassidy have all courted Bill Belichick in some form or fashion over the years, leaning on the six-time Super Bowl winner for advice when it comes to game preparation, managing the locker room, or simply trying to craft a championship roster.
On Wednesday, all three got their chance to explain what has impressed them the most about the Patriots’ coach (who joined later on the phone) during WEEI’s annual Jimmy Fund Telethon.
Stevens — who is second in terms of overall seniority to Belichick, having taken control of the Celtics in 2013 — said, for him, it’s the togetherness and simplicity of message.
“The thing that stands out when you go over and watch the Patriots do workouts and sit in meetings and sit in film is they are on one page,” said Stevens, who has been spotted at training camp in Foxborough on multiple occasions. “They are in one direction. His message, although has thousands of complexities within each scheme defensively and offensively, his message is concise. It’s ultimately not only well-delivered, but well-received.
“You can tell that thing is a juggernaut. That is a train moving in one direction. They know what they need to do to be successful. I don’t think its brain surgery — the way that I have seen it from up and close and afar is they don’t beat themselves. There are a lot of things in a football game that ultimately lead to that and they are the best at them.”
Cora continues to marvel at New England’s ability to play mistake-free football, and referenced a botched play from his own team in Tuesday’s loss to the Phillies as something the Patriots avoid.
“For me, it is the preparation and the way they go about it on Sundays,” Cora said of the Patriots. “It’s just like, ‘We’re going to play this way and if you beat us, you beat us. We didn’t beat ourselves.’ You can go back to [Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Phillies] — man on second no outs, and we had a mistake running the bases. That’s on us. We were undisciplined on that play, and probably cost us the game.
“With them, I have been watching this team for five [or] six years, it’s like, ‘Wow’ at how precise they are. It’s almost perfect. When they lose a game, it’s not because they were sloppy or undisciplined, it’s just the other team that Sunday was just better.”
Cassidy, who was at training camp earlier this summer, hammered the fact the Patriots have been the gold standard when it comes to establishing a positive locker-room infrastructure, something the Bruins have tried to emulate with well-respected veterans like Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara.
“The Patriots have been the best at establishing culture — this is the way we’re doing it. We’re going to get it right and if you’re not on board that is fine, we’ll get someone else. It’s worked for them very well,” Cassidy said. “Credit to Bill, and credit to ownership. It starts at the top and the players have bought into that direction.
“We have it with Bergeron and Chara. We’re very lucky. I am one of the most fortunate guys in the National Hockey League to coach true pros like that. Coming in at a young age, I appreciate that. I am sure Brad has his guys that he leans on, and Alex the same. Everyone is blessed or not of establishing that culture and have guys that will follow it. He’s done a great job — him and Tom [Brady], obviously, the two faces of the franchise. It has been terrific.”
Over the years, Belichick has courted personal and professional relationships with the other Boston coaching figures such as Terry Francona and Doc Rivers, trying to help provide some insight into what it takes to craft a championship team. Cassidy said he spoke with Belichick prior to the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs this past spring, and he said Belichick’s advice was invaluable.
“I talked to Bill before our playoffs and he was super. We talked for at least 20 minutes about everything,” Cassidy said. “I can’t say enough good things about him when we had that initial discussion, how open he was with what he thought would be good in terms of helping the group in the playoff scenarios.”