Charlie Coyle never met Bill Belichick over his six seasons with the Bruins — nor in his childhood years while growing up in Weymouth.
But like many lifelong Patriots fans, the Bruins centerman admitted that the sight of Belichick walking off the podium at Gillette Stadium for a final time on Thursday was a tough pill to swallow.
“You kind of take it for granted, when these good things come to an end,” Coyle said of Belichick’s departure from the Patriots on Thursday. “But it’s sad. It feels like it affects me, and I’m just a fan. I couldn’t imagine people in the organization and everyone that he’s touched closer to him. But yeah, it feels like something just happened in my life.”
After years of watching Belichick, Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots routinely trounce opponents every Sunday, Coyle acknowledged that most New Englanders have forged a special kinship with the legendary head coach — a sentiment strengthened with each new Lombardi Trophy that he hoisted in February.
“You feel like you do because you watch him every Sunday. You tuned in, you watched his press conferences,” Coyle said of Patriots fans’ connection with Belichick. “I don’t think I’ve ever met him personally, but I feel like I have and I feel like part of you just got ripped away.”
Bruins bench boss Jim Montgomery — much like his TD Garden colleague, Joe Mazzulla — took many lessons away from his meetings with the former Patriots head coach over the last year.
“I just asked a lot of questions. I was just trying to soak in the knowledge, and he was an open book,” Montgomery said of his interactions with Belichick during an invite to Patriots OTA practices last May. “And he was great about it, about how he handles situations, players, role players, star players, and then also just picking his brain on matchups and stuff and how he thinks and what’s important in those situations.”
At first glance, drawing parallels between football and hockey might seem like a stretch — especially from a strategic standpoint. But Montgomery believes that there’s plenty in common between two sports featuring 60 minutes of controlled chaos.
“I think the one thing that was common was I said, ‘If you’re looking at the whole, what’s the No. 1 thing you look at [that’s] important offensively and defensively?’ And he said, ‘Owning the middle of the field,’ ” Montgomery said of Belichick’s lessons. “And that’s the same thing for me in hockey.
“You’ve got to own the middle of the ice because with the puck offensively, if you can attack the middle of the ice, everything opens up, right? And football’s the same thing. You hit someone over the middle, he can use the [width of the gridiron].”
Plenty of change is in store in Foxborough moving forward. While New England will have a new coach patrolling the sidelines in 2024, all signs point to Belichick coaching elsewhere in search of the NFL’s all-time wins record.
Despite the optics of Belichick’s exit on Thursday after 24 seasons in Foxborough, Coyle focused on the positives that the Patriots head coach and the rest of the franchise were able to craft for over two decades.
“I just respect the heck out of him, just [because] he’s all about business, and just, whatever he’s got to do that day to do his job,” Coyle said of Belichick. “And that’s how he was every day. He seemed like he didn’t get too high, didn’t get too low. He was just all business every time and you respect people who bring that attitude and what they do for the sport they love. I mean, it worked out pretty, pretty [well].”
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