TAMPA -- Just before the Giants' first Super Bowl appearance, after the 1986 season, Bill Parcells received a red towel from a New Milford, N.J., high school football coach named Rich Conti whose teams had won two state titles. A note read: "Dear Coach, this towel has never lost. Take it to Pasadena." Parcells did and the Giants won. Parcells mailed the towel back to Conti and sent his thanks.

Two weeks ago, Parcells received another package. The towel. Conti's team had won another state championship and he thought Parcells could use a little good luck against the 49ers in the NFC championship game. The towel and the Giants still are undefeated in postseason after Sunday's victory over Buffalo in the Greatest Super Bowl Ever. "I got it up in my room," Parcells said Monday morning. "The towel's never lost. Rich, it'll be back to you next week."

Personally, I'd rather take my chances with LT and Pepper Johnson than some old towel, but you know how superstitious football coaches are. And how can you quibble with Bill Parcells the morning after? Parcells is king of his world, isn't he? After his second Super Bowl championship, he can negotiate life on his terms. These are the days of wine and roses for Bill Parcells.

The Giants undoubtedly want to re-sign a coach who is at the top of his profession. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, if they haven't already started, will soon be making overtures. He's a natural for television. Parcells's day-after news conference didn't last very long before the obvious questions were asked: What about his future? Did the Bucs already call? "Fabrication" is the word he used to describe that story. "I haven't talked to anyone about anything in any field at this time," he said. At this time? The last time the Giants won the Super Bowl, it was common knowledge that Parcells was interested in the then-vacant Atlanta Falcons job. "The last time we won one of these games," Parcells said Monday, "I was in the center of a little controversy that didn't allow our ownership and {General Manager} George Young to enjoy the victory. I'll sit down and assess what I want to do."

Someone asked if he was burned out, tired of it all. Parcells had lamented that he doesn't get to read enough, that he isn't as current as he'd like to be, that there should be more to life than film rooms and meeting rooms. "All my life, since I was nine years old, it's been: 'Where are we playing? Who are we playing? What game are we playing?' " he said. But fatigue? Not really. When it's time to quit, "God'll say, 'Hey, Parcells, you're not doing this anymore.' I love the game. There's a lot about this job I don't like, but I love the game. Running out of that tunnel yesterday, fellas, I can't explain it but it's euphoria. It's better than anything."

It's better than anything because Parcells has football licked better than anyone except maybe Joe Gibbs. Two Super Bowls in five seasons makes you untouchable forever. If you had your pick of somebody to run your team, whom would you rather have than Bill Parcells?

Oh sure, he's a manipulator. What great coach isn't? It's part of his secret. He's figured out every button to push on every player. There are more than a few similarities between Parcells and his friend and old colleague at Army, Bob Knight.

As gracious as he was in the morning afterglow, you knew Parcells couldn't last 15 minutes without getting in a shot at somebody, an I-told-you-so. A nobody-gave-my-guys-a-shot speech. The great thing about a guy like Parcells is when you say his guys are great, he tells you to stop getting carried away, and when you don't say it, he tells his team, "Look, they've written you guys off."

Someone began to ask Parcells whether he had heard Bruce Smith said he thought the Bills are still the better team. Parcells didn't wait to hear the entire question. "Is Smith still talking? Why not ask him to come talk to Jumbo {Elliott, the Giants' left tackle who handled him all game} and see what he says?"

It's hard to see Parcells coaching anywhere else, although it would be great to see him take another Ray Perkins wreckage (the Buccaneers) and turn it into a proud vessel within two years. Parcells is so much like the Giants fan he always has been, dividing the world into those who are with him and those who are against him.

But if Parcells wanted to gloat this day, he earned it. He convinced a team, struggling at the end of the regular season and without its starting quarterback, that it could beat the 49ers in San Francisco. He never let any system stand in the way of common sense. Against Buffalo's no-huddle offense Sunday, Parcells started six defensive backs.

He said he told the Giants before the game that "just because it's a big game with a lot of magnitude and pageantry, the same things that have been important all year are still important." He added Monday: "For me, the game has never been about who's watching. It's your guys against the other guys on that day."

Parcells thought about the three teams his guys had lost to in the regular season. "Twenty-three times we went on the field and three teams beat us," he said, including preseason games. "Philly, we beat them. San Francisco, we beat them. And yesterday we cleaned the slate."