Two years ago, Dean Pees made a call, seeking some football advice from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Two years later, he got the call -- to be Belichick's right-hand man.
Moving quickly yesterday, the Patriots stayed in-house and promoted Pees from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. The 56-year-old Pees replaces Eric Mangini, who was hired as head coach of the New York Jets.
Pees will be the Patriots' third defensive coordinator in three years, following Mangini and Romeo Crennel. The decision to stay within the organization and hire a coach with knowledge of the team's defensive system and personnel is a good one, according to one Patriots player.
''Dean Pees will fit the mold, the Team Belichick style," said linebacker Don Davis. ''Guys have been around Dean, and I think that's good. Guys will respond well to him."
Pees had been a college coach for 25 years when he placed a call to Belichick in February 2004, after the Patriots won the Super Bowl over the Carolina Panthers. At the time, he was set to enter his seventh season as head coach at Kent State, and he phoned Belichick to inquire about some X's and O's. The two had known each other through Pees's connection with current Dolphins coach Nick Saban.
Belichick gave Pees the answer he was seeking, then casually asked if he was interested in interviewing for an assistant's job on his staff. Pees thought it was a rare opportunity.
Now, just two years later, he's in charge of the Patriots' defense.
''Dean Pees has done an outstanding job coaching our linebackers," Belichick said. ''When he joined us, Dean brought a wealth of experience into this system and has been a significant part of our success over the past two seasons."
Pees, a native of Dunkirk, Ohio, has 33 years of coaching experience, split among high school (6), college (25), and the NFL (2). Of his 25 college seasons, 15 were as a defensive coordinator and six as a head coach.
''He had been a head coach at the college level and obviously you don't get to that level without knowing your stuff," Davis said. ''He's meticulous. He knows the game. Being a linebacker under him, the tips we had each week were very thorough and detailed.
''I think he's a good teacher, teaching the players how to act and communicate and learn the whole defense, not just your own position."
Asked to explain Pees's style, Davis said, ''He's authoritative. He is strong, tough, but yet he's not unapproachable. Some guys can be very tough and you can't approach them and say, 'This doesn't work.' He is someone who will be able to be open and willing to listen, if players say something might not be working."
Pees's promotion creates a void among the team's defensive staff. The other two defensive coaches are assistant secondary coach Joel Collier and defensive line coach Pepper Johnson. The team likely will hire at least one new assistant.
''I am very appreciative and grateful for the opportunity that Coach Belichick, [owner] Mr. [Robert] Kraft, and the entire Patriots organization have given me," said Pees, who is married with six children. ''I am extremely proud to be part of a first-class organization from top to bottom. I will work hard to continue the standard of excellence that is expected as a New England Patriot."
Last June, Pees said, ''I have tremendous respect for Bill and what's going on here, and this particular organization, it was a no-brainer [to come here]. It can't be much better than it is here, and it's more than just talented guys -- I've got a bunch of talented guys -- but there's not one guy I don't really like coaching. They're just good guys. No egos. Talented, tough, good and fun people to be around, and that's unique."
Jerome Solomon of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.