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Family huddle for Belichick

Coach's children part of game plan

Email|Print| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / January 30, 2008

GLENDALE, Ariz. - It was Bill Belichick's chance to defend himself, to set the media - or at least what passes for media on Media Day at the Super Bowl - straight, to rewrite history before his team does.

"Your personality - how close is the perception of you to the reality?" asked one questioner yesterday inside University of Phoenix Stadium. In a manner that belies his complicated persona, Belichick replied, "I don't know, next."

Belichick is guarded, but he's not the X's-and-O's automaton he's often made out to be. The coach has flashed some of his personality here at Super Bowl XLII. Maybe it's a calculated move to take some of the pressure off his team and its pursuit of a perfect season, or maybe he's actually showing a softer side.

The coach revealed that he's expecting both of his sons, Stephen, who is a freshman at Rutgers (where he plays lacrosse, just like his old man did at Wesleyan), and Brian, a high school sophomore, to be on the sideline with him Sunday.

When the Patriots won their first Super Bowl under Belichick, his oldest child, daughter Amanda, was on the sideline to celebrate with him. And it's not unusual to see Stephen or Brian sitting with the media as their father conducts one of his postgame press conferences, or to see Brian walking out of the locker room with Belichick on the way to the bus following a road game. It's a different side of the austere coach.

"It's great to be able to have your kids be part of what you do as a father," said Belichick. "Obviously, I spend a lot of time with the team and a lot of time away from home, and it's great for them to be a part of those activities, whether it's working in training camp, practices, games, meetings or whatever.

"It's a great opportunity for them to be around some of our outstanding players and see how hard they work and how professional they are and to see what makes them good players."

Belichick reminisced that he had the same opportunity thanks to his father, Steve Belichick, a former NFL fullback and legendary scout who spent 33 years as a coach at Navy. The relationship between Belichick and his father, who died in 2005, has been well-documented, and it's one of the reasons Belichick wants his kids to have the same indelible memories.

"It's something that happened to me when I was a kid," he said. "I went over to watch Navy and hung out with my dad and saw Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach and Tom Lynch and Pat Donnelly and guys like that.

"They were the best players because they worked the hardest. They were the first ones at practice and they were the last ones to leave. They were always doing extra things and working on plays and timing and things like that at the end of practice. So that was a great example for me, and again I think that's something that my children can learn from."

He feels that way whether they decide to go into football or not.

"It's not about football," said Belichick. "It's about being professional, working hard, and doing the right thing."

Being the progeny of a gridiron genius has its perks, certainly, but Fox NFL analyst and former Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson said that it's hard for football families to spend time together.

"For a head coach in the NFL to have time for your family is extremely difficult," said Johnson, who has hosted Belichick and his children at his Key West, Fla., home.

"It's a night-and-day job. I know my wife, when I was coaching my last years. I'd see her in her pajamas when I went to work, and I'd see her in her pajamas when I came home."

Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who has six children, Laura, Meredith, Steffani, Matt, Elli, and Tarrin, and has been coaching for 35 years, said that as you get older as a coach, you realize you can combine family and football.

"Yeah, and there are a lot of times you wish that you could go back and redo it when you were younger and maybe spend a little more time than what you did," said Pees, who credited his wife Melody for raising their family. "It's always great having the family involved, and Bill is real great about training camp and stuff like that. Our families are always around."

Make no mistake, though, Belichick is fully focused on becoming the second coach to win four Super Bowls, following Steelers great Chuck Noll. Even if he says he's not really into history.

"The winner of this game is the champion and that's really all it's about," said Belichick. "That's really all we're thinking about is trying to be champions of the NFL for this season. The rest of it maybe we'll talk about it later, but I really haven't given it much thought. I'm just trying to figure out a way to keep the Giants to less than 35 points. That would be a start."

So was Belichick admitting that the Patriots aren't the only family he'll be spending time with on Sunday?

"Every once in a while you get his personality coming out," said cornerback Asante Samuel. "When he does, everybody's laughing and smiling because you know he's happy. You'd better enjoy it because you don't see it that much. As a coach, he's a wonderful coach. He prepares us well day in and day out."

Belichick is trying to do the same for his children.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com

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