5 Minutes with Bill Parcells
February 26, 2014 – On the morning after Bucky Dent’s golf tournament, I traveled north to Juno Beach, Florida for an interview and photo shoot with Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells.
I met Parcells at the Hurricane Cafe, which is located one block from the Atlantic Ocean, and I spoke with him over breakfast for an upcoming “5 Minutes with…” feature in Yankees Magazine.
One of the most interesting topics we discussed was Parcells’ first season as the New York Giants head coach. Parcells and the Giants struggled in 1983, and they got off to a rocky start in 1984. Looking back on that time, Parcells acknowledged that he needed to make significant changes to his approach.
“My first year as a head coach was a disaster,” Parcells said. “I was lucky to survive it. If someone had tried to screw it up on purpose, they couldn’t have done a worse job than I did. But the main thing I learned was that you can’t try to portray yourself as something that you’re not. I tried to be someone different from who I really was. The most important change I made was that I just went back to being myself. I needed to be forthright and candid like I had been before I took over as head coach. I’m pretty confrontational, and that had always served me well. Once I got back to being that way, the players knew where they stood with me, and we began to win.”
Parcells also discussed legendary Giants quarterback Phil Simms, who will be featured in a “5 Minutes with…” piece in the same issue as the coach.
“Phil is the type of guy who you always want on your side because he’s as tough as nails,” Parcells said. “He’s got that soft blond fluffy hair, but you wouldn’t want to mess with him. I may have bruised his ego a few times, but he wasn’t overly sensitive, and I really liked that about him. I always knew that he was with me, and that he was trying to do the same thing I was trying to do. What I tried to do with Phil, was get him to a point in which he wasn’t afraid to fail. I wanted him to be smart, but I didn’t want him to hold back. If you asked him about me, I think he would tell you that I allowed him to be aggressive mentally.”
Parcells also shared an interesting story with me about his long-time friend, Gene “Stick” Michael, who served as the Yankees general manager from 1979 to 1980 and from 1990 to 1995.
“Stick and I used to go out for lunch at a place called Hagler’s in Oradell, New Jersey,” Parcells said of the current-day special advisor. “Stick helped me with free agency, because it had been a part of baseball for several years before it was in the NFL. He explained to me that you have to face the fact that you’re going to lose some of your players. He explained that I needed to quit thinking so much about who we were going to lose and that I needed to start thinking about how we were going to replace those players. That was a big help.”
After we finished breakfast, we drove to a nearby beach, where Yankees staff photographer Matthew Ziegler snapped several beautiful portraits of the coach, including the one below.
The rest of the interview with Parcells will be published in Yankees Magazine this summer, along with a Q&A feature with Simms.
–Alfred Santasiere III