Big ... Turkey?
The newly inducted Hall of Famer coached two Super Bowl champions and turned around four struggling franchises. He's known as Big Tuna, but he could have easily had a different nickname
DAN PATRICK:How close were you to not coaching in the NFL?
BILL PARCELLS: [After college] it was a decision between going into coaching, law school and going to work for a franchise that was in its inception that I had worked for in college. The name of that franchise was Pizza Hut.
DP:What was the job at Pizza Hut?
BP: They wanted me to be a franchisee and expand the franchise. When they were talking to me, there were only about six or eight of them.
DP:When did you know you were good at coaching?
BP: In 1984, when we [the Giants] won our first playoff game, against the Rams. I can recall saying to myself, Hey, Parcells, if you get your butt in gear, you can do this.
DP:Did you coach in a militaristic way?
BP: Some aspects were a little militaristic. But you have to let them know there's something other than that taskmaster there. Many players have commented to me about those times [when] it was just me and them. Those [interactions] seemed to be the most effective.
DP:Did you have different rules for different players?
BP: A lot of people have written that. That's one of the things that's hurt me most. I tried to be fair. Consistent wasn't the right word. I was trying to be right.
DP:How close were you to taking the Saints' job last season?
BP: I have a very strong fondness for [then suspended coach] Sean Payton. But I do think it was very smart for me not to do it and probably a lot better for the Saints. There were too many things they were going to have to overcome. I'm not sure anyone could have succeeded under those circumstances.
DP:If I brought up Bountygate or head hits in the 1970s or '80s what would you have said?
BP: I would have never stood up in front of [my players] and said, We gotta knock this guy out. I would say, We gotta put Eric Dickerson on his back. The first time we played against Bo Jackson, I said we need to let him know he's in a football game, not a baseball game.
DP:Where did the nickname Big Tuna come from?
BP: The New England players [in 1980]. They were trying to get me to sign up for a free turkey that didn't exist. I said, What do you think I am, Charlie the Tuna? That goes back to the Starkist commercial where Charlie was kind of a sucker. I was a rookie [linebackers] coach. I knew there was something fishy because too many of them were asking me if I'd signed up.
DP:If you'd fallen for the prank, you wouldn't be the Big Tuna.
BP: No, they would have been gobbling at me.
Steve Nash scrimmaged last week with Inter Milan and is a huge soccer fan. I asked the Lakers' guard (and part owner of MLS's Vancouver Whitecaps) how American athletes would fare if they focused on the sport. "If you had Adrian Peterson and Allen Iverson playing from when they're five years old," Nash said, "they'd have the opportunity to be world-class players." ... Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald told me rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu has gotten a bad rap. "He's a good kid," Fitzgerald said of the former LSU star. "Once you get to talk to him and [find out] how into football he really is, it will change the way you look at him." ... George Brett looked back at the 30th anniversary of the Pine Tar Incident (July 24, 1983). "I wished I wouldn't have [used] the bat again," Brett told me. "When they shipped the bat back, I took the pine tar down to 18 inches and used it. I have [another] one with pine tar up to 24 inches. It's my most prized possession."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
DAVID RICHARD/AP (PARCELLS)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (NASH, FITZGERALD)
CHARLIE RIEDEL/AP (BRETT)