Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says he never let his teams get the impression superstar quarterback Tom Brady was getting preferential treatment.
As a guest on Brady’s SiriusXM podcast, “Let’s Go,” Belichick revealed he learned the trick from legendary IU coach Bob Knight, and specifically the way he coached Michael Jordan during the 1984 Olympic Games.
“Where I got that from was Coach Knight, because Coach Knight told me that’s what he did with Michael Jordan on the Olympic team,” Belichick said. “He said, ‘Michael, I’m going to rip your (expletive) because I can’t rip some of those other guys without ripping you.’
It should probably come as no surprise that approach was well received by a competitor like Jordan.
Jordan said, ‘Bring it on, because I need that and it’ll help me with my teammates,'” Belichick continued.
That’s not to say it was always easy for basketball legend.
Jordan’s college and Olympics teammate Sam Perkins relayed an example of the tactic used by Knight at the 1984 Games. According to Perkins, even though Jordan knew he would be treated in a harsh manner by Knight, it still got to him.
“Bobby Knight, he got after us,” Perkins said on SiriusXM’s Above the Rim in 2016. “He told Michael that’s the worst he ever played. Now Michael’s going to deny this, but he cried. He cried after the game, because of the fact that Bobby Knight told him, ‘You should apologize to everybody in here.’ I waited for my apology because I thought he was going to actually do it. But he actually cried.”
There is clearly something to the approach.
Knight and Jordan went on to easily win the gold medal in 1984, and the approach helped produce six Super Bowl titles for Belichick and Brady.
The former IU head coach employed similar tactics with his Indiana teams. He pushed Steve Alford, Isiah Thomas and Scott May just as hard, if not harder than the role players on their championship teams.
“I can remember having good games and thinking hey he’s (Knight) going to be really happy, and he’d get me right back to the day at hand, and that’s my I appreciate him so much because I thought he made me better that way. He didn’t allow me to get comfortable,” Alford said on Friday on The Fan Midday Show.
And whether it was Knight’s players or Belichick’s, when they saw their coach yelling at the star, they knew what it meant for them.
“Players, they’d always come back to me and say, ‘Hey, the first meeting Belichick got on Brady. I’m like, Christ, if he’s going to talk to Brady like that I’d better be straight. I know what’s going to happen to me,’” Belichick said.
If Jordan struggled with Knight’s approach early on, he had the coach mastered by the end of the Olympics.
As recounted in Knight’s autobiography, Knight was preparing the pre-game points to make to the team for the Gold Medal game. That’s when he found a note in the middle of the locker-room blackboard.
“Coach: Don’t worry. We’ve put up with too much shit to lose now,” the note said, with no attribution.
“I still have the paper,” Knight wrote in his book, published in 2002. “And I don’t have any doubt about its author. By then, I knew what Michael Jordan’s handwriting looked like. I looked at that note, and everybody was watching. Michael had his head down, but he couldn’t resist looking to see what I was going to do.
“All I said was, ‘Okay, let’s go play.’”
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