If you haven’t come to the realization that Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in basketball then you’re in flat-out denial or have no clue what you’re talking about. Sorry, no offense, but it’s as obvious as the world being round. Just don’t tell that to his star point guard, Kyrie Irving who thinks the earth is flat. Don’t get me started on that topic! Anyway, I used the word “basketball” because he’s not just one of the best coaches in the NBA, but one of the greatest at any level. The man deserves your respect for a variety of reasons.
Let’s not forget he took a college team that nobody outside of Indianapolis has ever heard of to consecutive NCAA championship games. The name of that school is Butler and no it’s not a domestic institution that teaches you to serve dinner and clean the living room. At Butler University he broke the NCAA record for wins by a head coach in his first three seasons. Then he took his Bulldogs to consecutive Final Four appearances as extreme underdogs. Nevertheless, Butler reached the championship game both times but ended up on the losing side of the title run in each game.
Stevens put his name on the basketball map and front office personnel in the NBA had his phone number on speed dial to try and acquire his services. Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics had the luck of the Irish on their side as Stevens signed a six-year deal for $22 million. I’d say they got more than their money’s worth which is why his contract was extended two years ago. The Celtics franchise knew they couldn’t let this guy walk.
In a very short time, Stevens turned the falling franchise around as he coached the Celtics to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference in just his third season in Boston. We talk about LeBron James doing more with no help on the court from his teammates. I look at Brad Stevens in the same light as a head coach. The Celtics are a very good basketball team because Brad Stevens gets the most out of his players, they believe in their coach and they are so disciplined on the court which is a direct reflection of how Stevens coaches team basketball. Coach Stevens remains calm under pressure and uses his intellect to get every man in uniform to buy what he’s selling.
The Celtics big 2017 off-season acquisition besides Kyrie Irving, was Gordon Hayward to help fellow newcomer and all-star get over the hump and make the Finals. Unfortunately, Hayward went down within minutes of the first game of the season. It seemed all hope was lost after Hayward’s ankle took a left turn in the wrong direction. However, the absence of their new star gave other players the opportunity to develop.
We all know what Kyrie Irving is capable of which is why Boston traded for him in the first place. This was now Irving’s team with what appeared to be a decent, young supporting cast. Young, yes! Decent, no! Beyond decent as the Celtics drafted well and turned rookies into potential all-stars. After losing Kyrie Irving a couple of months ago it was all but over for the Celtics. No Hayward, no Irving, no playoff hope. Yet, Boston got through the first round of the playoffs and have taken a 3-0 series lead over the 76ers who are one of the hottest, if not the hottest team in the league entering these playoffs.
Many people say coaching is underrated in basketball. I doubt anyone on the Boston Celtics would say that now! The Celtics currently have one veteran in uniform and a bunch of rookies and youngsters surrounding Al Horford. I highly doubt anyone expected rookie Jayson Tatum to be the go-to guy when the game is on the line before the season started. Solid players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier are all 24 years of age and younger. And they’re all playing like 10-year veterans. Al Horford is a 10-year veteran and he’s been playing with more emotion and more energy than when he first came into the league.
So how is it that a team with championship goals, who lost their best two players during the course of the season, relying on rookies and sophomores, have any chance at making the NBA Finals? The answer is Brad Stevens because of the variety of coaching skills he brings to the table. First of all, Stevens is used to coaching young athletes as he spent seven years at Butler. While coaching the Bulldogs, he as a young man himself at age 32, was able to relate to his players and despite his age and boyish looks, had the ability to get his players to respect him and follow his tutelage. Coaching young players on the college level helped Stevens prepare for young incoming athletes as it’s obvious his guys respect and listen to him as their leader.
Brad Stevens is my coach of the year and I fully expect him to be a coach in this league for another 20 years. Yes, I just said 20 years. He’s only going to get better the more experience he has. He has an uncanny ability to get his team to believe and buy into his concept. He’s not a loud mouth, get in your face kind of coach. Stevens has other, more private ways of getting his point across to his team. Stevens stresses how important defense is and puts an emphasis on taking high percentage shots. The man knows how to coach and can keep his cool under pressure. That helps the players to relax as well and get prepared for the next play.
The bottom line is that you have to respect what Stevens has already done in his short career. And give credit to a man who lost his superstars and transformed bench players into efficient starters who play team basketball. Most players, owners and general managers will tell you behind closed doors that they would love to have Brad Stevens as their head coach. Most consider Gregg Popovich the best coach in the NBA. We know that Pop doesn’t say things because he feels he has to. He says what he wants when he wants and quite often he doesn’t even speak, especially to the media. With that in mind, check out some of the recent quotes Popovich had to say about Stevens.
Greg Popovich said, “he loves watching Brad Stevens during a timeout” meaning how he draws up plays and explains to his team how and why the play will work.
“I really respect what he does. I’ll still watch his Butler tape, trying to learn some stuff he did there, to be honest with you,” Popovich said of Stevens after Sunday’s game. “I really respect the hell out of him. He’s a really fine young coach, great demeanor. His team executes really well, and they’re just going to keep getting better. So I enjoy him.”
If you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll believe a future Hall of Fame head coach! Popovich actually admitted he watches old tapes of Stevens coached teams to learn something from him. That blows my mind! I say – case closed! Brad Stevens is one of if not the best basketball coach in the world!