What did that young man want?
"It's hard for me to put into words," Pioli says, "but I have these friends... ."
Scott Pioli's friends in sports think about things the way he does. They include:
• Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who says, "From the first time Scott and I talked, there was this kinship."
• Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who says, "Scott is like a brother."
• San Antonio Spurs president R.C. Buford, who says, "We just had a connection."
• Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro, whom he's known longest of all of them.
He has other friends in sports, of course. Pioli has spent most of his professional life seeking out anyone he thought had good ideas about how to put a team together. He's on something like a quest. He learned more about team-building from Belichick than anyone else. He has learned plenty more from his father-in-law, a pretty fair coach and G.M. named Bill Parcells. (Pioli and his wife, Dallas, have a daughter, Mia.) But those four friends are all about his age, and they have similar ideals. They have all had success—they have been part of four pennants, two World Series wins, three Super Bowl victories and four NBA championships. They talk about many things, as friends do, but mostly they talk about how you build teams, real teams, in this crazy era of big contracts and Nike commercials and a million other distractions.
"Obviously," Francona says, "our sports are different." Francona likes to bring Pioli into the Red Sox' clubhouse a few minutes before a game and watch him do a slow burn when he hears the loud music and sees how relaxed all the players look. Where's the passion? Where's the fury? What are those guys doing over there—dozing? Are you kidding me?