BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick doesn’t care what sport you coach. If your calling card is success, he’s going to pick your brain.
On Wednesday, Belichick welcomed a special guest to the Patriots’ joint practice with the Houston Texans in West Virginia on Wednesday: Tony La Russa.
A frequent guest at St. Louis Cardinals spring training over the years, Belichick had his good friend on the sidelines as the Patriots hit the practice field. La Russa, one of the greatest managers in baseball history, has always been a big inspiration for Belichick, who explained his relationship with the Hall of Famer before Wednesday’s practice.
“My relationship with Tony has been great. I’ve learned a lot from somebody as accomplished as he is in another sport. I’ll never forget the time he let me get in the dugout with him for an exhibition game. Baseball – it seems like just throw it and hit it but there’s a lot more to it than that. I saw just how much there is on every single pitch and the focus, concentration, all of that,” recalled the Patriots coach.
Belichick applauded La Russa’s forward thinking throughout his 33-year career as a manager in Major League Baseball.
“Different sports but Tony is very progressive. He had a great career as a manager, won a couple thousand games (2,728 — the third-most of all MLB managers). I can’t imagine what that’s like but it must be pretty good,” Belichick said with a smile. “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. He’s helped me a lot and given me a lot of insight.”
La Russa, a three-time World Series champ in the dugout, said he didn’t have any message for Patriots players on Wednesday because they already receive guidance from some of the best in the business on the New England coaching staff. He’s most impressed with the Belichick’s ability to turn the page and focus on the task at hand every year.
“His ability and his staff’s ability to start at zero every year, refusing to talk about last year, that’s an important part why they’re so consistent,” said La Russa. “It’s easy to celebrate [last] year. The ability to turn the clock to zero is really impressive and really hard.”
La Russa recalls Belichick’s delight at learning all the intricacies of baseball from within the dugout a few years ago, and said that experience gave his own players a much more personal look at the Patriots’ coach.
“He’s not like when he’s at a press conference. He’s got a lot of personalty, a sense of humor and a big heart. His players see it. I’m very fortunate to call him a friend,” said La Russa.
Belichick also welcomed former Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean to practice on Wednesday.
“I’ve had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with Tom, watched him at Indiana. 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,” said Belichick. “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.”