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Blond ambition: Parcells chasing NFL immortality
The Dallas Morning News ^ | June 8, 2003 | BY JULIET MACUR / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on 06/08/2003 6:45:14 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP

Blond ambition: Parcells chasing NFL immortality


BY JULIET MACUR / The Dallas Morning News

Beyond the entryway shrubbery shaped like a Cowboys star, through the lobby that's a shrine to Cowboys legend, past the portraits of square-jawed Cowboys greats on the walls of snaking corridors, there's the office that belongs to the main man.

Leather couches. Wooden shelves. A big, wide desk in front of a cushy executive chair.

In the chair, Bill Parcells. He is leaning back and telling a story. In his goodfella-gravelly voice, he's explaining how much he likes being Papa.

He points to a photograph atop a cabinet. It's a portrait of his three daughters as kids, grinning and gussied up in cute dresses and cuter pigtails. The coach smiles sweetly and says, "I call them my three little piggies."

Alongside the daughters are photos of his grandkids, a girl, Kendall, and a boy, Kyle, who is 13.

"Man, he can hit a golf ball a mile," Parcells says. "He's a good little point guard in basketball, too." He sighs wistfully. "Aah, we had a great time last summer."

Mr. Tough Guy is melting.

"You want to hear about the whole day?" he asks. Leaning forward, hands together, he slides into the soft-focus world of a day spent with his grandson in upstate New York near Saratoga Race Course.

Michael Ainsworth / DMN
Bill Parcells (right) doesn't expect any conflict with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (left).

At 6 a.m., the two crawl out of bed and roll to a nearby store, a "glorified 7-Eleven, but better." Over the years it has become a morning coffee shop. Kyle has a bagel and orange juice. Parcells has his Daily Racing Form and newspaper.

Then, as the sun rises, they're off to the barns to watch the horses train. Kyle says hi to everyone, everyone says hi back. "Hiya doin', Hiya doin'."

About 8:30 a.m., the old man and the boy head for the golf course. There they do whatever such twosomes do, hit a few balls, play a few holes, yuk it up. At about 1, they rush home and put on "our little suits and ties" (to quote Parcells) and return to the racetrack for low-stakes betting.

"I drive his mother crazy," Parcells says, talking about his oldest daughter, Suzy. "She says, 'You're teaching him your bad habits.' All I can say is, 'Ahh, Suzy.' Yeah, that's Suzy."

The races over, Parcells and Kyle go to dinner at Applebee's or Ruby Tuesday. Then it's home for a baseball game on TV, after which – and Parcells insists this is a true story – Kyle tells his mother he wants to move in with his granddad and be with him all the time.

The boy looks up at his grandfather and says: "Papa, it doesn't get any better than this."

'My last stop'

Papa Parcells may be fine for a day, maybe a week.

But for a lifetime, it's Coach Parcells.

On Jan. 2, the coach ended two years of retirement to move to Dallas, 1,400 miles away from his grandson in Pennsylvania.

It's true that many people find retirement seductive. It's just as true that Bill Parcells is not one of those people.

"How can you resist this?" Parcells says, slapping his desk with both hands. "Going into this, I knew that this could be it for me. My last stop. You can either do this or pass this by and know that it's over.

Courtesy photo
Mickey Corcoran, 81, was Bill Parcells' high school basketball coach and a father figure.
Then you're going the other way. The rest of your life is going to be comprised of something other than what you're made to do."

Bill Parcells, a future Hall of Famer, could make $1 million a year just to talk – talk – about football for ESPN. He could play golf every day, as does his beloved high school basketball coach and father figure, 81-year-old Mickey Corcoran, who tees it up with buddies nicknamed "The Shotmaker," "Harry the Jeweler," and "Monkeyface."

Such could be the easy life for a self-described Jersey wiseguy.

No way. At 61, Parcells is restless. Impatient. He wants to grab at life before it slips away. "It's almost a physical thing," says a close friend, Bob Green, a physical therapist in New York. "He's actually depleted if he's not coaching. He's down and depressed. Not his usual perky self. If he stays away from it too long, it drives him crazy."

Many questions

To Parcells, the Cowboys job sparkled with possibility. He told friends, "It's like the [expletive] Yankees!"

For a guy who grew up about 10 miles from Yankee Stadium, that means a lot. Like the Yankees, the Cowboys are icons of conspicuous success. Parcells, a sucker for tradition, could not say no to that.

His office was Tom Landry's office long ago. There, the original Cowboys coach mulled over game plans, studied videotape, hung his fedora.

Parcells asks, "Did you see what I have back there?"

Behind his metal desk is a framed picture of him with Landry. It's the mid-'80s. Parcells is the New York Giants' coach, Landry still with the Cowboys. They're at Texas Stadium, chatting before a game.

Whenever he could, Parcells asked Landry questions. How many days a week do you practice in pads? How hard do you go on Fridays? What are your expectations of players?

Now he's walking where Landry walked.

"This isn't the typical job, and Bill finds that intriguing," says Bob Knight, the Texas Tech basketball coach and a Parcells friend since their days nearly 40 years ago as young coaches at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"The tradition of the franchise is atypical. The owner is atypical. He finds Jerry Jones intriguing because some guys haven't been able to do it, they haven't been able to work with him. Just the whole idea of being different appeals to him."

Former Fox network sportscaster Pat Summerall, Parcells' closest friend in Dallas, says, "Ultimately, if he's successful, people will say the Cowboys have only had three coaches: Landry, Jimmy [Johnson] and Bill.

"The other guys were just passin' time."

Remember, it's the Cowboys. Not Tampa Bay, not San Diego. End those 5-11 seasons for America's Team, and people will remember it. Restore that haughty shine to the star on the helmet and you can leave the game a hero forever.

Parcells has resurrected teams before, and this is the ultimate job. This time, everyone is watching. Because the Cowboys are the Yankees.

When Yankees owner George Steinbrenner crosses a New York street, truck drivers honk and show him either a thumbs-up or a solitary finger. Building doormen say, "How 'bout those Yankees?" Or, "Damn those Yankees."

Steinbrenner acknowledges the burdens that come with such attention: "It's a tough thing today to try to revive a team that America is rooting for. But if anyone can do it, Parcells can. There's a lot of pressure there, but he can get the Cowboys through this."

Originally, Steinbrenner doubted Parcells could work for Jones. He wondered if there was room even in Texas for two egos that size. But he now believes the pairing makes sense.

"I think he is one of the smartest owners in all of sports, not just football," Steinbrenner says of Jones. "He'll do anything to win. Parcells will, too. They both think that finishing second is like kissing your sister."

Obsession with victory didn't keep big personalities Jones and Jimmy Johnson together. So when Johnson heard that Parcells might go to Dallas, he called to ask, "Are you thinking about doing this?"

"Yes, I am," Parcells answered.

Johnson paused. "Well, I think it will be good. Right now, I think Jerry's ready for somebody like you."

Jones, who will pay Parcells about $17 million over four years, says as much: "I regretted that people felt that our coach was a puppet. ... The one thing I could do to stop some of that criticism was to get a respected and strong coach like Bill Parcells. ... You won't have the same criticisms with him here. Now I can do things that will, perception-wise, be more palatable to the public."

Parcells isn't expecting any conflict.

Above his desk, glued to a cabinet, is a nameplate that says, "Just Coach the Team," given to him by former Parcells assistant Al Groh, now head coach at the University of Virginia.

It's a near-replica of the sign Parcells gave to Groh in 2000, when Groh was the Jets' head coach. It's a reminder to ignore outside influences.

The media. Agents. Even the team owner.

Fresh start

Jones or no Jones, it's still the Cowboys, and that's the best part. Drawn to the team, perhaps innately, he has come here almost alone, a man starting over.

Most of his longtime assistant coaches were unavailable. The only veteran is offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, Parcells' running back coach with the New England Patriots and the Jets.

Bill Belichick, once Parcells' defensive genius with the Giants, is now the Patriots' head coach. Several Belichick assistants were Parcells guys. Tom Coughlin, another Parcells assistant, is out of work, fired from the head job in Jacksonville. Parcells says he unofficially offered Coughlin a job, but his friend passed.

Nor does Parcells have many friends or family here. He rents an apartment in Las Colinas, suggesting impermanence.

Not long ago, back East, he built his dream house at the Jersey shore. That house and another in Florida now belong to Judy Parcells, the coach's wife of 39 years until their divorce in January 2002.

Now, for the first time since he married Judy Goss, a secretary in Wichita State's sports information office when he was a student there, Parcells is a bachelor. His personal life is something completely new.

Friends say Parcells, like many driven coaches, regrets the personal costs of the job, the divorce, the time spent away from his children as they grew up. But there have been many more losses in his life that he couldn't have controlled.

A week after he took the Dallas job, his buddy Will McDonough, a Boston Globe sports columnist and co-author of Parcells' last book, The Final Season, died of a heart attack. In 1999, a plane crash killed his agent and friend, Robert Fraley. Those deaths are particularly painful because Parcells' inner circle has always been small. It's hard to earn his trust.

"The more you try to get to know him," a friend says, "the more he'll push you away. He has layers to him that some people will never know.

"For sure, we can't understand him. Really, I'm not even sure he understands himself."

Parcells lets only a few people in. He has known Summerall for most of his NFL coaching career. Maybe once a week, they get together.

"He's not what you'd call a social climber," Summerall says. "We go to dinner a lot, but that's about the size of the crowd."

Despite the team around him and his effortless ability to mesh with players, Parcells is a loner. On Mother's Day, he played golf by himself at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine. It was early, the course empty. He played 10 holes, often hitting two balls from a tee, killing time until he needed to be at Valley Ranch.

The next week, a reporter asked him, "Are you as fired up going into this as you have been in other places?"

"Yeah, sure," Parcells said. "This is it, man. I'm looking forward to it, I really am."

Then he interrupted the follow-up question.

"I don't have anything else to do now."


These days, when his new job and new life seem so uncertain, Parcells sometimes leans on memories. Next to his desk is another photograph of note, this one of former Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, helmet off, eyes glaring, that blue No. 56 jersey gleaming.

"You know why I have this here?" Parcells says with a smug look, poking L.T.'s chest with his finger. "It reminds me what I'm looking for."

Two other reminders are in a drawer in his apartment. He wears his two Super Bowl rings only on important occasions – such as when making a point.

"If you want one of these," he'll say to a player, showing off a ring, "you need to get your ass in gear."

What Bill Parcells wants is this: Be punctual, attentive and smart. Do nothing stupid, do not lose focus. There are tales about what happens to players who don't live up to that.

When he saw a Jets player throwing up from exhaustion, he said, "Throw up on your own time." A Patriots player had been lax in workouts and passed out during a training camp test; Parcells barked at trainers, "When he wakes up, tell him I just cut him."

"They were afraid of him before he even got there," says Knight, himself a master of the technique. "They already know what to expect. They're thinking, 'Now, I'm not going to come in there and wear red socks with white shoes. I'm not going to come in there and put flowers in my helmet. There are some things I'm just not going to do.' "

At the end of February, this memorandum mysteriously showed up on the Cowboys' team bulletin board:

"To: Players. Subject: 2003 Rules and Regulations. Players' parking lot: Each car will be towed if not parked properly. All cellphones must be turned off when entering the locker room area. No outsiders in the locker room area at any time. Update your address and telephone number (must be able to be contacted – 24 hours). NO FOOD. In the locker room. Meeting rooms. Training room. Weight room."

Suddenly, players showed up more often for off-season workouts. The locker room was neater, quieter. No players kicking back, playing dominoes. No longer does Reggie Swinton's boombox blare from his locker.

"Hey, I don't want to do anything to get him mad before the season even starts," says Swinton, a wide receiver. Then he leans toward a pile of clothes in his locker and whispers. "If I want to play my music, I hide it in there and play it real low."

The aura of discipline and control – and winning – has pervaded every corner of the franchise.

Quarterback Chad Hutchinson: "Everything he does is right, in my book."

Rookie center Al Johnson: "Sure, we feel comfortable asking him a question ... as long as it's not a dumb one."

Swinton: "You might sit here and say, 'Why do we have all these rules? Why do we have to do all this running and lifting?' If he was a proven loser, we'd say, 'Man, that's bullcrap.' But you can't ask why we're doing this. All you can say is, 'Man, we're going to win.' "

Parcells is somewhat baffled. Somehow the players got the message without his even lifting a finger.

"I said no cellphones in the locker room, but this domino stuff, I've never heard of," he says. "I never told that to the players."

Destined to win

Knight says Parcells' success was inevitable.

Courtesy of The Tennessean
Bill Parcells (left) as a coach at Vanderbilt.
They met in the mid-1960s, both coaching at West Point. In the athletic department basement, they'd watch football films. They'd go on basketball recruiting trips. Maybe grab a sandwich at the deli down the street. All the while asking each other: What are the keys to winning?

They settled on one thing: Don't beat yourself. Eliminate mistakes, you win.

Parcells is so good at that hard thing that Knight now considers Parcells one of the four or five best coaches in any sport ever.

To limit mistakes, Parcells takes only calculated risks. He demands perfection, but not in complicated things – just the basics. He's willing to teach you, if you are committed.

"You have to buy into it because you know it works," Cowboys cornerback Pete Hunter says. "You may think something's too simple, but when you think about it, nobody has gone over that stuff in a long time. They've always expected us to just know it."

On the field, Parcells is in his usual, unusual get-up. A Cowboys T-shirt is tucked into matching shorts hiked high at his waist. Long white socks are yanked clear over his calves. His sneakers are so white, they glow.

His hair is blindingly blond from a dye job gone overboard. His eyes are bluer than true blue. He walks the practice field, a whistle hanging above his considerable belly, his caustic sense of humor making players laugh or cringe, depending on the target.

He's studying and staring.

"He almost has a mystical quality to him when he's out there because he sees everything," says Johnny Parker, Parcells' strength and conditioning coach with the Giants and Patriots.

If Parcells sees you do something stupid, he'll tell you about it in strong terms.

"I've always felt that the best coaches I've ever known or ever seen are intolerant people," Knight says. "When you see a coach like Bill that has been really good over a period of time, he has been intelligently demanding of all his players. His expectations have been high; his toleration has been low."

All still true in Dallas, where players are told to hustle from drill to drill.

Parcells' voice booms: "Any day now, ladies! Any day now!"

Filling the void

When a great coach is away from his game, there's a hole in his life.

Some fill it happily. Jimmy Johnson wakes up at 5 each morning in the Florida Keys. If the water is flat, he goes fishing. If there's a wind up, he fiddles around his property, enjoying the sun.

Bob Knight, without basketball, goes hunting in Colorado and fishing in Russia.

Bill Parcells couldn't fill the hole.

Even after resigning from the Giants and having bypass surgery in 1991, he was drawn back to football. Even after leaving the Jets, saying he was retired for good, he just couldn't stay away.

On his days as an ESPN pregame football analyst, he drove from New York to Connecticut for breakfast with his colleagues, grabbing a bagel and scolding Tom Jackson for clogging up his arteries with fried eggs and bacon. His co-analysts call him a flawless performer.

But afterward, when everyone headed to a conference room to watch the games, Parcells drove back home.

"I always thought that was a way to put in Sunday afternoon, that he didn't have anything else to do," Knight says. "He was really good at it, but I don't think he'd ever cared for it."

Parcells almost took the Tampa Bay job last year but backed out at the last minute, a few days after his divorce was finalized, saying he wasn't ready for the "grind."

Maybe. Or maybe the Bucs just weren't the Yankees or Cowboys.

Maybe he was struggling with who he really was.

By nature, Bill Parcells is a teacher, a builder, a leader – all ways to say what he says, which is that he's a coach: "It's what I am. There's nothing else to it."

He once wrote a book in which he said his wife, Judy, asked why he coached if it made him miserable, anxious and depressed. He confessed that he didn't know why and couldn't explain it; he just did it.

There is pain, certainly. He feels it even before the season begins.

At the end of May, climbing into his car to leave a Cowboys function, he said, "This is a killer business." A pause, then: "Do you know what I mean? Understand?" Finally, enunciating slowly: "It ... will ... kill ... you."

He tries to explain why he came out of retirement to coach a failing team:

"It's worth the trouble for me. I'm not talking about anybody else. I don't care what the public's impression is. I don't care about the fan. I don't care about the perception. This is my own specific fear of failure. It's about testing myself.

"I think I'm pretty simple to understand. Very simple. I'll tell you exactly what I'm thinking. I'm afraid. I feel like I'll forget something or do something stupid or do something I know better not to do. I feel like I'm derelict."

And if he fails?

"Well, that's when you want to go eat soup in your kitchen by yourself. You go home and eat soup and say, 'Damn it, that's not happening again. I'm not letting that happen again.' "

So why do it at all? Why give up those days with your grandson? Why do it if the pain of failure is greater than the joy of victory? Why do it if failure can kill you?

Here's why: There's a community inside a football team, a circle of people committed to a single purpose, working at one man's direction. That man's skills are put to a public test weekly before tens of thousands of people in stadiums and millions more watching on television. That man dares to put himself on a high wire.

To be that man, to be Bill Parcells coaching America's Team, is to be a man alive.


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TOPICS: Sports
KEYWORDS: billparcells; dallas; dallascowboys; egojones; jerryjones; legislation; newyork; pennsylvania; texas; tuna

1 posted on 06/08/2003 6:45:14 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: Texas; **New_York

2 posted on 06/08/2003 6:47:33 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP (Bu-bye Dixie Chimps! / Check out my Freeper site !:
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To: **Pennsylvania; yall

Obsession with victory didn't keep big personalities Jones and Jimmy Johnson together. So when Johnson heard that Parcells might go to Dallas, he called to ask, "Are you thinking about doing this?"

"Yes, I am," Parcells answered.

Johnson paused. "Well, I think it will be good. Right now, I think Jerry's ready for somebody like you."

Jones, who will pay Parcells about $17 million over four years, says as much: "I regretted that people felt that our coach was a puppet. ... The one thing I could do to stop some of that criticism was to get a respected and strong coach like Bill Parcells. ... You won't have the same criticisms with him here. Now I can do things that will, perception-wise, be more palatable to the public."

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll believe Jones will let Parcells do the coaching when I SEE it ! If he keeps his nose OUT of that job, it'll be a GOOD thing. We'll see!!

It's always about ME !

3 posted on 06/08/2003 6:51:52 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP (Bu-bye Dixie Chimps! / Check out my Freeper site !:
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: **Texas
4 posted on 06/08/2003 6:52:24 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP (Bu-bye Dixie Chimps! / Check out my Freeper site !:
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