On Wednesday, the tiny town of White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., was the unlikely site of a multi-sport coaching summit of sorts.
With his New England Patriots in town for two joint practices with the Houston Texans, coach Bill Belichick invited former Major League Baseball manager Tony La Russa and ex-Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean to The Greenbrier resort to observe the Patriots in action.
“We brought in a couple of big righties from the bullpen that can really throw hard and close it,” Belichick joked in his morning news conference.
Belichick and La Russa, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, go way back.
“Tony’s been a great friend,” Belichick told reporters. “Buzz Bissinger, who wrote (La Russa’s) book (“Three Nights in August”), and I went to high school together, so we have some mutual friends. It’s been great. My relationship with Tony has been great. I’ve learned a lot from somebody as accomplished as he is in another sport.”
La Russa managed in the big leagues for more than three decades with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals, winning 2,728 games and three World Series titles. He once hosted Belichick in the dugout during an exhibition game — an experience the Patriots coach fondly remembers.
“He had a great career as a manager, won a couple thousand games,” Belichick told reporters. “I can’t imagine what that’s like, but it must be pretty good. But yeah, we’ve talked a lot about coaching teams, coaching players, dealing with different situations. He’s been in a lot of big games, a lot of championships, World Series, things like that, different organizations. Yeah, he’s helped me a lot and given me a lot of insight.”
Though he’s regarded as perhaps the greatest football coach of all time, Belichick still solicits advice and counsel from others in his profession. He said he often reaches out to Crean, who helped revitalize Indiana’s storied hoops program in his nine seasons with the Hoosiers.
“I’ve had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with Tom, watched him at Indiana,” Belichick said. “He allowed me to kind of watch practice and spend time with his organization, with his team. Again, different sport, but I learned a lot from his organization.
“We speak pretty frequently. Different motivations, teachings, (but) coaching is coaching, even though the sport is different. Players are players, and there are different things you can do to help them. He is a very progressive guy.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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