Kerr, Coach K, Brady among legends to congratulate Counsell

June 20th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy's Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Some heavy hitters from across the sports world helped the Brewers celebrate Craig Counsell becoming the winningest manager in franchise history.

When the Brewers beat the Mets on Wednesday to push Counsell past Phil Garner’s club mark for regular-season victories, a group of players and staff -- with owner Mark Attanasio joining on FaceTime -- gathered while president of baseball operations David Stearns presented Counsell with a gift in the visitors’ clubhouse at Citi Field. It was a bottle of 1998 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grands Echezeaux -- a favorite vintage which Counsell enjoyed while the group celebrated sweeping the Rockies in the 2018 National League Division Series. When Counsell lifted the lid on the specially designed box containing the bottle, an embedded screen automatically began playing a video.

As recorded messages unfolded for eight humbling minutes, Counsell couldn’t believe it.

“You kept going, ‘Wow,’” he said this weekend.

The video started with a recorded message of congratulations from Attanasio, who kept Counsell in the Brewers' front office upon Counsell’s retirement in 2011 and then endorsed his move to field manager in 2015. Counsell probably could have seen that one coming, but up next was a message from Mike Krzyzewski, who recently retired as college basketball’s all-time leader in victories.

That was just the start.

The video continued with personalized messages from Brewers founder Bud Selig, University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker, NFL superstar Tom Brady, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Hall of Famer Robin Yount, Thoroughbred racehorse trainer Steve Asmussen, Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, former MLB manager (and Counsell mentor) Jim Leyland, Garner himself, former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Holmgren and current Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.

The video messages, the content of which were intended to be private and will remain that way, had been gathered by senior director of team travel and clubhouse operations Dan Larrea and senior director of media relations Mike Vassallo, with editorial input from Major and Minor League equipment manager Jason Shawger. They had Counsell completely blown away.

Then he was carted away. Players dumped their manager in a laundry cart and soaked him with beer as the celebration continued.

“I don’t want to get into, like, ranking them, but I’ve always been a huge admirer of Steve Kerr,” Counsell said. “Mike Krzyzewski, too. I’ve gotten to know him a little bit.”

The experience was all a bit surreal, and much appreciated.

“I know it’s my name, but I still see it as the organization,” Counsell said. “I just think so many people are a part of it. I understand I am in a leadership role and out front, but I know that it’s a lot of people doing it. I’m really not trying to be humble about it, it’s just how it is.”

Has he enjoyed the bottle of wine yet?

“I did not drink the wine,” Counsell said with a smile. “I will. I’ve got some potential occasions picked out, for sure.”