EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 12, 2011

Phillips Andover honors Belichick

By Bill Burt
bburt@eagletribune.com

ANDOVER — Bill Belichick isn't one to brag. So it's difficult to get the New England Patriots coach to talk openly about his impressive coaching record in Super Bowls (3-1), in the post-season (15-6), in December (39-7) or against Peyton Manning (8-5), all unmatched among his National Football League coaching peers.

But there are two particular winning records he owns that he will discuss openly and with pride:

In 1970-71, the undefeated Phillips Andover Academy football team was 8-0 and the lacrosse team was 13-1.

The cherry on top? Belichick and his teammates were 2-0 versus Phillips Exeter Academy.

"We beat them pretty good, 34-8, in football. That was huge," recalled Belichick, referring to the team's finale versus rival Exeter before a packed stadium that included nearly the entire student bodies of both schools.

"I look back on the year in football and lacrosse," said Belichick. "That's a pretty impressive record, only one loss in two sports, playing pretty good competition."

Yesterday, Belichick was among a distinguished group of former athletes and coaches inducted into the Andover Athletics Hall of Honor.

Also honored were Arthur Hillebrand (1896), Thomas "Lou" Hudner Jr. (1943), Meredith Hudson Johnston (2001), Paul Kalkstein (1961), Raymond Lamontagne (1953), Thomas Pollack III (1961) and William Smoyer (1963).

"I am very humbled by the honor," Belichick said. "This means a lot to me, especially with some of the other people who were inducted with me. Paul Kaulkstein was the assistant lacrosse coach when I was there. He worked a lot with me."

Belichick spent only nine months at Phillips Andover as a post-graduate student, but in some ways his time there reshaped his view of the world.

Growing up in Annapolis, Md., where his father coached at the U.S. Naval Academy for 33 years, in a relatively conservative environment, Belichick was in for a culture shock the first few weeks of September 1970.

"I was not prepared when I got there," recalled Belichick. "The academics were really hard and there were so many talented kids there. It was amazing.

"And those were some difficult times with the Kent State issues around campuses," he said. "I remember the school paper had an outspoken editorial page. Andover gave me an appreciation of a lot of things."

Belichick recalled taking an anthropology course at Andover, a course he never would have considered elsewhere.

"Not that I had any interest in it previous to taking the class, but it ended up being really fascinating," he said. "I remember really wanting to go to that class. I realized that going off the beaten path sometimes isn't a bad thing. Andover gave me an appreciation of a lot of different things."

Another fringe benefit was the fact that Belichick got to play for one of this region's greatest football coaches, Steve Sorota, who passed away a decade ago.

"Steve was an impressive coach," said Belichick, who started at center. "He had so many great qualities. Not only did he know the game on a detailed level, but I saw the way Steve pulled together a lot of PGs (post-graduates) like myself each year and got them to play together. Back in Annapolis, we had four running plays and two pass players. It was a completely different story at Andover. We had a lot of plays and options."

Belichick's lacrosse experience was equally enthralling. Andover played many freshmen college squads, losing only one game.

"Like the football team, we were loaded with talent," recalled Belichick, who played the "attack" position. "We beat several freshmen teams like Tuft's and Harvard's. We had players that went on to play at Yale, Brown, two guys who became CPAs at Harvard, a defensman at Princeton, a goalie at Dartmouth ... We had a lot of fun playing together."

Belichick wasn't too shabby himself, lettering in football, squash and lacrosse at Wesleyan University.

"Bill wasn't the best athlete on the team, but nobody worked harder in practice and nobody was in better shape," said Dana Seero, an Andover native. "I was a tackle. And I always remembered Bill knew where everybody was supposed to be. He was solid all the time."

While watching films wasn't yet a formal process of the game, as it is today, under Sorota it was mandatory. And Belichick, along with fellow lineman Ernie Adams — who later followed Belichick to Cleveland and Foxboro as a special assistant — saw enough football film to start their own movie company.

"The reason Steve (Sorota) was such a great coach was he devised a system based on the players he had. So it changed every year," Seero said. "To be successful, you had to study the game a lot. I think Andover is where Bill and Ernie really saw the game (as a science)."

Belichick has shown his gratitude in several ways to Andover, particularly since he has lived in the Boston area.

Each year he helps with student recruitment and has attended events in support of the alumni.

Belichick's only daughter, Amanda, a former two-sport start, is also a graduate of Andover.

"Andover gave me a lot. It had a lot to do with my transition from high school to college. Wesleyan was a lot easier for me because of how prepared I was," Belichick said. "If I can share my experience with others with the lessons it taught me, I will."