Raised In New Jersey
Born as Duane Charles Parcells, he began calling himself Bill, after a lookalike, as an early teen in Oradell, New Jersey. At River Dell High School, Parcells excelled in football, basketball and baseball. "His temper was sometimes a problem, but never his work ethic," Puma wrote.
Parcells spent a year at Colgate, but transferred after one year to Wichita State. There, he was an All-Missouri Valley Conference as a linebacker. The NFL's Detroit Lions drafted him in the seventh round in 1964 but cut him shortly after training camp began. Parcells then coached as an assistant at several colleges including Army, where he befriended men's basketball coach Bobby Knight, whose own career would be highly successful, though stormy. In Parcells' first head coaching job, in 1978, Air Force lost eight of eleven games.
He agreed to become the Giants' linebacker coach in 1979, but he and his family didn't want to move again; then, after a year of selling real estate in Colorado, Parcells became a New England Patriots' assistant under Chuck Fairbanks. In 1981, he joined Ray Perkins' New York Giants staff.