Leadership

Bill Belichick plays word-association game with 'Deflategate,' 'Aaron Hernandez' and 'the media'

Want to see inside the mind of a living legend?

CNBC contributor Suzy Welch recently got the opportunity in a rare, wide-ranging interview with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, one of the winningest coaches in NFL history.

In the interview at Belichick's favorite restaurant, Mission BBQ, he discusses his career, family, leadership style and defining moments. He also plays a rapid-fire word-association game that hits on several controversial topics.

Suzy Welch: I want to play a little word-association game. Okay?

Bill Belichick: Okay.

SW: I'm going to say a word and I just want your immediate, snap reaction. Okay?

BB: Sure.

SW: Football.

BB: More sport than business. But it is a business. That I respect the game for the game and the sport.

SW: The media.

BB: It is how a team connects to its fans.

SW: Winning.

BB: The goal. There's no medals for trying. This isn't like eighth grade where everybody gets a trophy. We are in a professional sport, and it is competitive to win. That's what we do.

SW: Deflategate.

BB: Ridiculous.

SW: Aaron Hernandez.

BB: Tragedy.

SW: Heartbreaking.

BB: Yes. That would be another word.

SW: Next year.

BB: Is this year.

SW: Perfect day.

BB: Nantucket.

SW: Last one. Legacy.

BB: For another day.

SW: Don't think about it?

BB: No. Right now, 2017. Trying to have a good team this year. There will be another day to talk about it.

SW: Just another day at the office for you?

BB: No. I mean, look, I'm aware of it, but I can't sit and think about it. Look, this year is going to be part of it. So, try to have a good year this year and you know, we will figure out the rest of it later.

Belichick doesn't shy away from controversies in his career, such as the Deflategate saga that saw star quarterback Tom Brady suspended for four games and the Patriots fined $1 million after allegations of tampering with footballs.

Belichick even comments on the case of Aaron Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, who was found guilty of murder in 2015 and is currently on trial for a double homicide.

Welch also grills the head coach on several more upbeat topics that reveal his laser focus. In response to "winning," he immediately says "the goal" and there are "no medals for trying." To "next year," he says "this year," showing a focus on the present that is core to his leadership style.

This management approach hits home in another part of the conversation, when Welch asks if he's still celebrating the stunning come-from-behind Super Bowl victory in February.

"We're onto 2017. No one cares about 2016 anymore," Belichick says. "You can't look back. We don't talk about last year. We don't talk about next week. We talk about today, and we talk about the next game. That's all we can really control."

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