WALLY HALL: Pals Belichick, Saban prove incomparable

Posted: January 23, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Mentioning Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in the same breath as Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide is natural.

They are the best and everyone else is the rest.

The Patriots are the best pro football team and the Tide the best college football team, and the discussions these days center around the word ever -- as in best ever.

The head coaches and longtime friends mirror each other, at least in demeanor.

Bill Belichick seems to despise the media every hour of every day.

Nick Saban seems to despise the media except when he needs to get a message to his team or fans through the media.

Their friendship dates back to 1984 when they were both on staff at the Naval Academy. Later, Saban worked for Belichick for four years with the Cleveland Browns. When the staff was fired Belichick headed to the New York Giants to work for his mentor Bill Parcels.

Saban headed to Michigan State to clean up the mess his mentor George Perles had made, including NCAA probation. Saban also considers Don James, the former Washington coach, of playing a major role in his career.

Michigan State led him to LSU, but he had to be persuaded to take the job by his agent Jimmy Sexton.

In 2003, Belichick won his second Super Bowl with the Patriots. Saban and the Tigers won the national championship.

Belichick was home. Saban had to give the NFL a shot as a head coach. When the Miami Dolphins wouldn't sign Drew Brees, Saban was done and headed to Alabama, where he has won five more national championships.

Belichick will play for his sixth Super Bowl title Feb. 4.

They are both students of the game, strong believers that defense wins championships, and that no one will every out work them.

They ran out of midnight oil 20 years ago.

Only they know how much they stay in touch, but they acknowledge they do.

There is little similarity in their personal lives, although both seem extremely happy now.

Saban and "Miss Terry," his wife, have been married for 46 years. They met at space camp in the seventh grade and decided to go steady in the seventh grade -- which was reported to mean sit together on the bus -- and started dating in high school. They were married at 21 when Saban was still in college.

They are devout Catholics, have two adopted children and a grandchild. The only speed bump in their relationship might be how much time they are going to spend at their lake home.

Belichick -- who has survived "Spygate" and "Deflategate" with the Patriots -- divorced in 2006, but the couple had been separated for two years.

He was named in another divorce case and the woman, who worked for the Giants as a receptionist when Saban was on staff, admitted in court he had given her money and bought a home for her and her children.

He most likely was still seeing her when he met Linda Holliday, who lived in Maumelle, with her third husband, but she was reportedly in the process of a divorce when she met Belichick at a nightclub in Florida. She is a two-time runner-up in the Mrs. Arkansas contest.

They have been together nine years, and in fairness they seem extremely happy. She's at home in the Boston area and at every game. She runs the Bill Belichick Foundation, but as far as anyone knows they are not engaged despite rumors two years ago to the contrary.

Belichick and Saban are like royalty among their teams' fans, and they enjoy success like few others ever have.

Sports on 01/23/2018