PHOENIX (AP) Looking back at the championships he won at Southern Cal and the Super Bowl title a season ago with Seattle, Pete Carroll can see exactly where the foundation for all that success was built.
The 2000 football season was the only time since 1972 that Carroll did not work in coaching in some capacity, whether it was as a graduate assistant, position coach, coordinator or head coach. He'd just been fired by New England after going 8-8 in his third season there, placing Carroll into the fraternity of twice-fired NFL head coaches. Carroll had ideas for how he wanted to run a team, but never solidified the guiding principles.
Getting fired might not have seemed necessary at the time, but proved vital in creating Carroll's future.
''I'll never know that and I'm going to take it for the way it happened was necessary,'' Carroll said. ''The pain and the struggle and the hardship and then the challenges of bouncing back were all part of the rebirth of that - of the philosophy and a mentality.''
Fifteen years after being dismissed by Robert Kraft and New England, Carroll will face the Patriots as he tries to join another rare fraternity of coaches who have led teams to consecutive Super Bowl titles.
That year out of football was the birth of ''Win Forever'' and all the other catch phrases that go along with being part of a Carroll-coached program. And much like last year's Super Bowl in New York, where Carroll got his first NFL head coaching job with the Jets, this trip to the championship game brings another chapter of his career full circle.
''It gave me an opportunity to really collect my thoughts about moving forward and to get pointed in the direction that, really, we have maintained since,'' Carroll said. ''I had a tremendous opportunity to reflect on the time that I had had.''
What is most telling about Carroll's approach is that 15 years later it's still relevant. He's gone through multiple generations of athletes, embraced the eruption of social media and graduated from dealing with 18-year-old freshmen to 30-year-old professionals. Yet the philosophy remains successful. There's a reason coaches from other sports - Steve Kerr, Lloyd McClendon, Terry Stotts, Erik Spoelstra - have made a point of visiting Seattle practice to get a sense of how Carroll works.
''I think because we made it work. We made it work because it was so true, really, to my heart. I could stand for it, up against whatever the challenges were, whatever the hurdles were, the issues were. It kept me together. It kept me on course,'' Carroll said. ''I found that we needed to be uncommonly consistent with what we believe in and prove the way we feel, the way we position things, would be one that we could make successful because it was so true it wasn't hard.''
While Carroll is set in his beliefs - and the results are hard to argue against - that should not be taken for inflexibility. He's taken a give-and-take approach with the personalities he coaches, while they have bought in to what he preaches.
''Pete is always evolving, he's always adapting,'' Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. ''I think that's one of the things I love about Pete Carroll. He allows us, he allows the players to dictate what direction we're going to go. He listens to the players and pays attention to us and ultimately he tries to fit our needs and wants and desires and that allows us to be comfortable coming to work and enjoying what we do. He's always adapting and always changing.''
That ability to adapt was evident this season. Sitting at 6-4 after losing at Kansas City in Week 11, Carroll pulled together about a dozen of Seattle's core players. He realized a connection was missing with this team and if anything was going to be salvaged from this season, it needed to be found right then.
The results since: an eight-game winning streak and the chance for Seattle to become the first team in a decade to repeat as NFL champion.
''He allows his players to bump their heads and scrape their knees, and learn from their experiences on and off the field,'' Richard Sherman said. ''He gives us a chance. He trusts his players more than I think a lot of coaches do, and we appreciate him for that.''
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