One of the less-advertised duties that comes with playing for the New England Patriots: You'd better know your military history.

And if you don't, you'd better get cozy with Wikipedia.

That's because head coach Bill Belichick is a military history buff. The bookshelves of his office are packed with information on the subject. And the coach constantly weaves historical references into his speeches and game-planning to the teams.

But this isn't the cliched, hyperbolic football-as-war speech many people might think of. Belichick's approach is much more detailed and nuanced. And he's not trying to stir up emotions, either -- he's trying to get his players to think.

"Anytime you are quoting Dwight Eisenhower, or anyone from Bill’s military history background -- warriors and statesmen, that’s not normal in the NFL," said defensive end Jake Bequette, in a story published by The Wall Street Journal. "You don’t hear a lot about Sun Tzu or anyone like that in most locker rooms."

The WSJ also reports that one Belichick speech made so many references to accords and armistices that his players were visibly confused. With a tense tone, the coach explained, "It’s a peace treaty, guys."

Even linebackers coach Patrick Graham, a Yale graduate, has found himself boning up on history lessons and watching more of the History Channel to try and get on the same page with Belichick. Other players have also become history nerds thanks to Belichick's emphasis on the subject.

Belichick has probably converted more history buffs than Paul Westhead gave birth to Shakespeare fanatics. The former Los Angeles Lakers coach, who led the team to the 1980 NBA championship, was a big fan of the Bard and regularly quoted the writer to his team.

When he left the NBA to become the coach at Loyola Marymount, Westhead even served as an English professor, according to the Los Angeles Times. Which begs the question: How terrifying would Belichick be as a teacher?

J.J. Watt knows how to connect with an audience. His first words in his interview with Azteca Deportes after the Pro Bowl on Sunday were: "Yo me gusto burritos." ... I like burritos.

Watt was named the Pro Bowl's defensive MVP so no surprise that he also said, "Me gusta el juego." ... I liked the game very much.

Here's the rest of Watt's Spanish responses:

  • Yo necesito comida ... I need food.
  • Yo necesito beber agua ... I need to drink water.
  • Yo necesito (ir) al aeropuerto ... I need to go to the airport. (The interviewer asked if Watt would like to fly to Cancun.)
  • Puedo ir al baño por favor? ... Can I go to the bathroom please?
Having a second language is fitting since Watt has made a career of being versatile. He is a former hockey player and this season he started showing some of his old tight end skills from college with three touchdown catches.

The story told in Lead ... For God's Sake! follows the struggles of a basketball coach who can't figure out how to motivate his team. When advice from a CEO friend of his fails to produce any answers, the coach ends up talking to a janitor, Joe, about his failures as a leader. Through conversation between Joe and Coach, the book tells a parable of motivation and purpose founded on the Christian faith. The following is an excerpt from the book that persuaded Urban Meyer he could return to coaching while balancing his family responsibilities.

Joe set his bag of books on his desk and walked over to turn the coffee pot on. "So what's going on Coach?"

"Joe, I can’t do it. I mean, I can’t lead with the heart." The deep frustration was clear in Coach's voice. “I tried, and I failed. Flat out, I failed! I’m the biggest loser I know. I have had more success in high school coaching than any of my peers, and yet I’m a failure because I have no clue why I do what I do. I mean, I thought I knew. I thought it was for the right reasons. But my guys ... they see it differently. And my son ... he sees it differently, too. And you know what? When I search deep within my own heart, I know you’re right. I coach ‘cause I’m a fierce competitor. I want to win, I fear failure, I need to be in control, and addicted to the rush I get from my successes. My identity is firmly planted in my success as a coach. All that stuff we talked about? That’s me. And I don’t … I don't" -- Coach struggled to get the words out as he choked up -- "I don’t have a clue how to change it." Joe listened to Coach and nodded as if he knew exactly what he was experiencing.

"Not only do I not know why I coach anymore, I guess I don’t even know why I'm here on this earth.” Coach dropped his head and buried his face in his hands.

After a few moments of silence, Joe spoke up. "Coach ... you know all our talks about leading with the heart and about how answering the question why is the starting point to all that?"

"And you know how we talked about everything being centered on relationships?" Again Coach gave an affirming nod.

"Well, I have always said, there’s only one way to really live out your purpose in what you do, and that’s to commit to living out of your reason for existence first."

"Well,: said Joe, a sly grin on his face, "that’s what we’re talking about here. When you consider the reason you do what you do as a coach, you’re asking yourself the why question, And if you really want to get it right, you must remember that you were created for relationships; therefore, you have to consider your guys first. In fact, you have to consider all the relationships in your life. And when you do that, your answer to the question why becomes much bigger than just you.

"… When the answer to the why question is more about others than about yourself, it makes a big difference in everything you do. Think about some of the greatest leaders in history: Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., If you would've asked any of them why they did what they did, they would’ve been able to answer you in a heartbeat: they all knew their purpose in life. And in each case, it clearly centered much more on others than on themselves." “Right!" exclaimed Joe. “They were all passionately focused on the interests of others, not on themselves. Interestingly, in each of their cases, there was a central focus on a relationship with their Creator, too."

Compared to the man who coached Florida to two BCS national championships, the Ohio State version of Urban Meyer has a much different look. He's calmer on the sidelines and more committed to balance in his life, per his own comments.

Those changes may not have affected Meyer's on-field product: In only three seasons, he's built Ohio State into the best team in the country. But the changes that took place between leaving Florida and joining Ohio State reflect critical personal growth and a new take on his priorities in life.

Meyer himself credits a good portion of this change to a book he read during that hiatus. LEAD ... For God's Sake! is a leadership book with Christian messages that examines the motivations leaders face in their positions. Unlike many self-help and leadership books, LEAD book is told as a parable, starting out with a fictional story.

According to its author, Todd Gongwer, Meyer was given the book by ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge shortly after Meyer joined the network's college football coverage.

Gongwer said that Meyer read the book on a flight out to Stanford. By the time he landed, Meyer's outlook had changed. He emailed Gongwer immediately. Gongwer said that when he sent a reply email, he included his phone number.

A few minutes later, Meyer called.

"Within a few minutes you could tell this guy had genuinely experienced some deep pain physically, emotionally," Gongwer told ThePostGame. "He had lost sight of what was important, and now kind of had his eyes opened to those things that mattered most in life.

"As a result, he kind of poured out his heart. He said, 'This thing re-ignited a spark in me to get back in to coaching some day.'"

Gongwer and Meyer continued to talk, and the author took on a pseudo-role of advisor and consultant. Meyer, for his part, was eager to help Gongwer spread the news about the book and to share it with his own peers. Meyer wrote foreword in the paperback edition, published in 2014.

Gongwer also interviewed Meyer at length in his home back in 2011.

"When he originally got into [coaching] in 1986, [Meyer] was all about the relationships the camaraderie with the kids," Gongwer said. "As you move up the ladder, it’s so much harder to hold on to those things. You're busier, you’re so much farther up the ladder.

"[The drive to succeed] minimizes our ability to see the relationships that are closest to us in our lives. Spending time with those closest to us and even our relationships around us -- we get so caught up with winning that we lose sight of these things. ... [Meyer] would tell you he lost sight of those things at Florida."

Meyer is far from the only prominent sports figure to have read Gongwer's book. He said a variety of high-profile figures, from baseball's John Smoltz to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, have since picked up his book -- "I don't even know how they get it," he says.

Gongwer also cited Lane Kiffin as someone he has met with on several occasions, starting back when Kiffin was at USC. The author said that while Kiffin continues to work through the process of identifying his motivations and aligning his life with his priorities, he is "a changed man" today.

Meanwhile, Gongwer and Meyer continue to maintain a relationship. Gongwer says he talks to him on a semi-regular basis and sometimes visits as well, although he tries to stay out of the way and let Meyer manage his busy life. When they do speak, Gongwer's main focus is on seeing where Meyer's priorities and motivations lie, and whether he is structuring his life to strike that all-important balance.

So far, so good. And the wins keep on coming.

Adrian Dantley, the former first-round pick and 15-year NBA veteran -- a six-time NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame -- turned up in an odd place this week.

He's reffing junior varsity basketball games.

Dantley was working the hardwood at Maryland's DeMatha Catholic High School, where he graduated, as reported by Deadspin's Dave McKenna. For his efforts, the NBA great who ranks ahead of Larry Bird and David Robinson on the all-time scoring list earns a cool $35 per game.


It's understandable if you've arrived at this story expecting to here another rendition of once-rich sports stars reduced to making ends meet on a meager hourly wage.

Good news: This is not that story. Dantley was well-known as a player for being a frugal spender and managing his money wisely. He also spend eight years as an NBA assistant with the Denver Nuggets.

More recently, Dantley was found working as a school crossing guard. His odd jobs in recent years have nothing to do with finances, though. The man is simply just trying to stay busy.

"I'll be 60 years old in six weeks," Dantley tells Deadspin. "Being a crossing guard and a ref gets me out of the house. Everybody was surprised to see me [refereeing] last night, but I’m not a person who’s going to sit around the house."


A perfectly reasonable explanation, in the end. Dantley hasn't hit hard times; he just doesn't want to sit around bored. Good on him.

And, for what it's worth, DeMatha also took time to honor Dantley at halftime.


This ball will be given to HOFer and @DeMathaHoops Alum Adrian Dantley tonight before our game.

A photo posted by mjhoops3 (@mjhoops3) on

When the NBA and its players union struck a new collective bargaining agreement in 2011, the league gave teams a very valuable contract provision: Each NBA franchise had the opportunity to wipe clean one bad contract from its payroll.

That is, the team would still have to honor the contract in full, but the contract wouldn't count against the team's salary cap. The amnesty provision could be applied only to a contract that had been signed before the ratification of the new CBA.

Today, most of those contracts are expired. According to Real GM, there are only three players in the NBA whose contracts and teams are both eligible to use the amnesty clause: Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Memphis' Mike Conley and Atlanta's Al Horford. None of those players have any real chance of being amnestied. Durant and Conley are too good, while Horford's $12 million salary is a good bargain even with the recent slip in his production.

Many teams ultimately opted to use the amnesty provision to exercise minor cap relief by unloading small contracts that were nonetheless an inconvenience. The drawback of the amnesty is that you still have to spend the money even if it doesn't count against the salary cap, and most teams are reluctant to eat millions of dollars to get nothing in return.

Some of the largest amnesties that occurred were the unloading of Brendan Haywood's hulking contract, which cost Dallas a cool $27 million. Over the summer, the Bulls used their amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer, which is costing the team $13.5 million this season.

The Bulls are essentially paying Boozer to play for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, but they're fine with taking that extra expense. While Boozer's performance has dipped dramatically this season, the Bulls used the free cap space to sign a rejuvenated Pau Gasol, and they also brought over Nikola Mirotic from Spain's Real Madrid club. Teams use the amnesty because they wanted to cut their losses and invest their cap space elsewhere.

These amnesty decisions offer a perfect comparison to what's happened with Josh Smith. Earlier this week, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy informed the forward that he was being waived by the franchise. Smith was brought in two seasons ago as a star free-agent signing for Detroit, but a lot has happened in the time since. The Pistons struggled to convert big free agent spending into on-court success. Last season, they dumped their coach and forced Joe Dumars to step down as the team's GM.

Smith was part of a crowded frontcourt that included promising big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Given the upside those two offer, Smith was the obvious odd man out: There wasn't enough minutes to spread around to all three, and doing so could have jeopardized the development of the two young bigs. Van Gundy tried to make Smith work, but with Detroit free-falling in the Eastern Conference standings, the Pistons are switching strategy and are now focused on developing young prospects.

From a personnel standpoint, the move makes perfect sense. The financial considerations, though, are a little more complex: Smith has two years left on his contract after this season, and roughly $25 million he's still owed. He isn't eligible for the amnesty provision, so Detroit will have to honor the full sum.

Detroit could have traded Smith to unload the contract and save $25 million, but it would have cost the Pistons other financial assets. Only one team was interested in taking on such a massive contract. Smith is a competent NBA player, but he is a sabermetrics nightmare and is shooting 39 percent from the floor this season -- a terrible figure for a power forward. Only Sacramento was willing to accept him in a trade, and Detroit would have had to sweeten the deal with other assets, including draft picks, just to get Smith off its hands.

The franchise wasn't willing to part with more juicy assets, so it used another nifty clause in the collective bargaining agreement: a "stretch provision," which allows the Pistons to stretch out Smith's salary payments -- and their hit on the team's salary cap -- for a period of up to five years, according to Forbes.

By doing that, Detroit isn't completely hamstrung by Smith's albatross contract. In fact, what Detroit did might have a little genius to it that isn't apparent on the surface.

Smith's contract will cost the team anywhere from $5.1 to $5.4 million per year for the next five years. For the first two years, that's a nice markdown from the $13.5 million the team would have owed him -- savings of a little more than $8 million. Detroit can use that money to be active on the free agent market.

The financial burden does extend for three more years, which would handicap the franchise well into the future except for one thing: After next season, the salary cap is expected to increase significantly. A massive TV contract signed earlier this year will go into effect for the 2016-17 season, and it's estimated that the salary cap will increase from a projected $66 million next season to $90 million the following year, per Detroit Bad Boys.

The extra $5 million in dead money becomes much less of a burden, in other words. Teams will have a huge upshoot in salary to work with, and Smith's contract obligations will represent a smaller share of the cap. When measured in terms of its percentage of cap space, the stretch provision actually saves the Pistons money will offering short-term cap relief.

So that's the good news. The bad news, for the Pistons and the NBA at large, is that stories like this aren't likely to go away. The NBA has done a lot of work to reduce the risk of bad contracts that hamper a team's competitiveness. Most recently, the introduction of shorter contracts -- now four to five years in length, compared to six or seven in previous years -- minimizes the long-term ramifications of poor personnel decisions. The amnesty clause helped out a lot of teams, and the stretch provision gives teams some crucial breathing room.

But the nature of basketball salaries and NBA team-building is inherently risky. Bad contracts may happen in the NFL and Major League Baseball, but franchises in those leagues are working with much larger rosters. It's easy to maneuver around a few bad contracts when you have 54 roster spots to work with. NBA teams, meanwhile, only have 15. And since one single player can make such a difference in a team's competitiveness, clubs are eager to lock down promising talent early -- sometimes before they prove worthy of a large contract.

This happens virtually every offseason. It's not just the big-splash signings like Josh Smith that present risk. There are typically two other ways NBA teams get snared into a bad contract: Restricted free agent signings and rookie contract extensions.

Rookie contract extensions are particularly speculative. When players enter into the last year of their rookie contracts, teams have the chance to offer an extension to those players. The problem is, many of those players are still developing as NBA players. In all too many cases, the season ahead figures to be the year that establishes their ceiling in the NBA. But teams run a risk by allowing those contracts to run out: If those young players dominate in the ensuing season, they will almost certainly command a max contract as restricted free agents, costing much more than an extension might have warranted for the team.

Signing an extension sets teams up to collect on a bargain for years to come, and without letting players see their price inflated on the open market. But if extensions are signed by players that go on to underwhelm in the upcoming season, it's devastating for a team, setting the club up for years of bad contract value.

Teams pursue rookie contract extensions because they believe it's a worthwhile gamble. If you hit with a great player, you have a contributor at a price the open market would never allow. It only takes one team to overpay an NBA player, and it happens all the time. Great players are worth a few duds along the way. The problems arise when teams keeping hitting all the duds and miss the high-value signings.

Restricted free agency functions in a similar way: Incumbent teams have a chance to match any offer their player gets. But this can often lead to small-market teams driving up the price in hopes that the incumbent team won't match. Plenty of bad teams are willing to overpay a decent player just to stir up excitement and elevate their team to a level of respectability.

It's not a move you'll see many title contenders make -- although Dallas arguably did this with Chandler Parsons over the summer -- but it's the nature of the game. In a perfect world, these economic dynamics would encourage league parity. More often, though, restricted free agency spawns dubious contracts for good-but-not-great players, making them the alpha dogs on teams whose ceiling is a middling playoff seed.

This is how the NBA works. There are only a handful of superstars, and it's hard to win a championship without one. At any one point in the life of the NBA, almost half of the teams are probably making trades, signings and other moves in hopes of landing one of those superstars.

But there are also teams like Detroit, who before this year was investing salary into a good roster that had virtually no chance of contending for a championship. Joe Dumars needed to inject the franchise with some excitement to keep his job, and since he didn't have a superstar to land, he brought in Smith and Brandon Jennings to improve the franchise and extend the GM's tenure with the team.

In the end, that didn't work out. Smith was overrated and overpaid, and the rest of the roster was too thin to make the playoffs even in the depleted Eastern Conference. Detroit may have star-caliber youth in Drummond and Monroe, but the prospects of a team built around those budding bigs will be handicapped for years to come by a questionable investment in Josh Smith. For better or for worse, that's life in the NBA. And it's not going to change.

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo has his own weekly radio show, and most of the time the show focuses on basketball.

But just like any man with an hour of air time at his disposal, Izzo isn't afraid to get a little self-indulgent at times. In addition to being a great basketball coach, Izzo is also a skilled accordion player.

In the spirit of the season, Izzo whipped out his accordion on the radio, and brought in his players to sing "Jingle Bells" as he played. The result is beautiful.

More accordion magic:

It's stuff like this that makes it easy to see why Izzo is such an effective recruiter and coach. Players love him, and he works hard at building relationships and connecting with his teams.

We're all just lucky that we get a taste of the experience ourselves.

No word yet on when Izzo's album will drop.

Matt Stainbrook is a fifth-year senior, the second-leading scorer for the Xavier basketball team, and a 6-foot-10 oddity that draws attention wherever he goes.

And, when he's not playing Xavier basketball or pursuing his MBA, Stainbrook spends his time as a driver for Uber.

In a video from ESPN, Stainbrook talks about his weird second life as a driver-for-hire in his 2004 Buick Rendezvous.

It's a nice job because it allows Stainbrook to work odd hours around his busy schedule. Uber provides a weekly paycheck along with the ability to meet strangers and chat them up.

Although Stainbrook doesn't care if they aren't interested in talking back.

"I feel people out," he told ESPN. "I'll ask a couple of questions and I can usually get the vibe. ... I can read people and if they're not really wanting to talk or they really want to have a conversation."

Stainbrook's income is useful because he chose to have his full scholarship given to his brother, who was a walk-on at Xavier. The undergraduate tuition is much higher than the graduate rate -- roughly $40,000 per year compared to just $14,000 for Stainbrook and his MBA studies.

The center decided he could save his family a huge chunk of change by giving away his scholarship, and his Uber earnings help further.

According to Stainbrook, some passengers recognize him, while others don't. Some simply marvel at his size, while others try to sneakily take photos of him.

It's all good to Stainbrook, who enjoys the experience of being an Uber driver. Even if sometimes it means giving rides to people just after they've been fired. He remembers one woman in particular who got into his car with a box of her belongings.

Said Stainbrook: "It was silence for the whole ride."

LeBron James' business acumen has been celebrated informally, but now a new honor has boosted the Cleveland Cavaliers' superstar to new heights.

James has become the first active athlete to make SportsBusiness Daily's list of the 50 most influential people in sports. The list is usually reserved for commissioners and owners.

James and the Cavaliers' owner, Dan Gilbert, are ranked 26th. Here's what the publication had to say about the duo:

"Two figures connected for different reasons. Gilbert was surprisingly successful in luring James back to Cleveland and has the Cavs profiting greatly from James’ homecoming. Gilbert also is greatly influencing the makeover of two American cities with his investments in Detroit and Cleveland. James has transcended his status as an athlete, virtually single-handedly defining the NBA free agent market for a second time while continuing to rule the endorsement world and keep his hands in several business ventures"

James dictated the NBA free agent market last summer, as every major free agent waited on him before making a decision. James also cleverly signed a two-year deal with the Cavaliers, anticipating that the new salary cap that will kick in after the 2015-2016 season will allow him to demand more money.

Only 29 years old (he'll turn 30 later this month), James has been praised by none other than Warren Buffet for his business acumen. Endorsements included, James is the highest-paid player in the NBA and the third-highest paid athlete in the world.

James and Gilbert were in good company. The list included NBA commissioner Adam Silver (No. 1), ESPN president John Skipper (No. 2) and Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer (No. 13), among others.

One generation after Michael Jordan famously eschewed political stances on the grounds that "Republicans buy shoes, too," athletes aren't nearly as afraid to remain neutral on subjects that matter.

Recent protests and social movements triggered by events in Ferguson and across the country are pushing professional athletes to use their public platforms in advancing issues they care about most.

Quietly, LeBron James is becoming one of them.

Ever since his Miami Heat posted a hoodie-draped homage to Trayvon Martin following his shooting death, James has been less and less afraid to insert his voice into issues of race.

Last spring, he called for the NBA to remove Donald Sterling as the Los Angeles Clippers owner after tapes revealing Sterling's racist comments were leaked to the public.

James has also made some carefully weighed remarks regarding the more recent social unrest taking place across the country. While acknowledging that problems exist, James also wanted to steer clear of inciting any additional violence.

"It's a sensitive subject right now," James said to CBS Sports. "Violence is not the answer; retaliation isn't the solution. As a society, we just have to do better."

James also addressed the issue of race in the NBA during a sit-down interview before the start of the NBA season:

As athletes become more comfortable with taking a stand, the spotlight inevitably shines brighter on that world's most visible personalities. James is adept at handling this pressure, only commenting in a careful manner without making statements too strong in any direction.

But he's making comments nonetheless, which is an important step.

"It doesn't matter if you're an athlete or not," James said to CBS Sports. "If you feel passionate about it or it hits home for you, then you have the right to speak upon it. That's why we have freedom of speech. I've never shied away for something that I feel for or people or families that I feel for. That's just who I am.

"But I don't think we should add pressure to anybody, first of all, that doesn't have the knowledge about it, that's not educated upon it to speak about something you don't know about."

In other words, James doesn't want to feel pressured to say anything. But he does want to be a part of the conversation. At this point, it seems the Cavaliers star is trying to figure out how he wants his voice to be involved.

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