NBA PM: Celtics Excited About Brad Stevens
VIDEO OF THE DAY – Brad Stevens
Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens holds court at the Orlando Summer League.Watch More Video Here
When the Boston Celtics hired Brad Stevens to be their new head coach five days ago, it was widely regarded as a surprising hire. The move makes complete sense since Stevens has been one of the most successful coaches in college basketball in recent years. During his time at Butler, he had a 166-49 record, which is the most wins for any Division I coach in the first six years of his career. The Bulldogs also played in back-to-back national championship games despite having few highly-coveted recruits.
However, the surprise was that Stevens decided to leave Butler’s campus, where he’s treated like royalty and could do no wrong. NBA teams have been contacting Stevens and his camp for quite some time to gauge his interest in a jump to the pros, and this offseason, the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns were among the teams to reach out to Stevens. But every team knew that it would be difficult to land the 36-year-old head coach since he loved his situation at Butler.
The Celtics were able to land Stevens by offering a six-year, $22 million contract that was negotiated by Stevens’ wife, who serves as his agent. The money, six-year commitment and the chance to lead a storied franchise like the Celtics was too much for Stevens to pass on, and now the league will get the chance to see one of the brightest young minds in basketball work with some of the best players in the world.
Andrew Smith, a center who spent three seasons with Stevens at Butler before joining the Oklahoma City Thunder’s summer league roster, believes that his former coach is going to make a successful transition to the NBA, even if it takes a little while due to Boston’s current rebuilding phase.
“I think he’ll be great,” Smith said. “I mean, anywhere he goes he has been able to be pretty amazing. I think there might be a few years, but that won’t be his fault. As you saw, Boston’s pretty much been gutted. But when he’s able to build the team based on what he wants, I think they’re going to be pretty good and I think he’s going to have a lot of success.”
He has also received support from a number of NBA legends, most notably Larry Bird and Phil Jackson.
“I don’t know Brad Stevens personally, but I know he did a good job in Indianapolis,” Bird said. “The people really like him there. I’m not surprised [he’s coaching in the NBA] because he had a guy sniffing around the NBA to see what was out there two years ago. I’m not surprised by it. I think he’ll do fine. It just takes time. It takes time for everybody. I’ve watched a lot of IU and Butler games. He’s very patient, he doesn’t get too excited. When the players watch their coach and they don’t get excited, they play with a demeanor to keep pushing. He’s going to be alright. It carries over to his players and that’s why they got so far in the last few years.”
“Congrats, Danny Ainge, on hiring Brad Stevens,” Jackson tweeted. “He has the demeanor of a composed leader. Hope he’s got the hide of a rhino for NBA grind.”
Celtics shooting guard Courtney Lee, who was in attendance to watch the Celtics’ summer league team, and Boston rookies Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson are among the players thrilled about the hire.
“I’m excited to get to work with him,” Lee said. “I’ve known him for awhile since he’s an Indy guy. What he did with that program, going to the national game two years in a row, hopefully that can translate to the NBA level so we can get to the playoffs a couple years in a row and make a run at it.”
“Just watching him and playing against them the last couple years at Gonzaga when he was at Butler, he’s a student of the game, a really smart guy,” Olynyk said. “His teams really execute, understand the game. They execute the game on both ends of the floor. He’s a great guy to learn from, I can’t wait.”
“Everything I’ve heard about him is great and from watching him, I have all the respect in the world for him as a coach and a person,” Iverson said. “I really love the way he approaches the game. He took Butler to back-to-back national championships, which is pretty remarkable. Just to be able to play for him now and have the opportunity to talk and text with him, it’s a great feeling. I know that I’m going to learn a lot for him if I get the opportunity to play for him.”
While Stevens has plenty of supporters, he’s the first to admit that he has a lot to learn about the NBA.
“I’m just getting a feel for, as much as anything, the vocabulary and the lingo that is probably more known or prevalent in the NBA circles that might not have been the same in college,” Stevens said. “[I need to get] up to speed appropriately. We might be saying the same thing but in different words. So If I can make their job easier by learning the communication that has already been used, then that’s one person having to change instead of 15. That’s one of the things that I’m working on and I’m really just sitting and listening right now. It’s been great, these guys are doing a great job and Jay [Larranaga] is leading the charge really well.”
Stevens has let his assistant coach Larranaga run the Celtics’ summer league team without much direction.
“I’m going to let him run with this and I’m going to continue being a learner,” Stevens said. “He’s doing a great job and he’s a really good basketball coach. We talked a lot about what I’ve envisioned moving forward and some of the things that we both agree on that we both think are really important, not only from a cultural standpoint, but a basketball standpoint. If I come in on the fifth day almost and want to tweak, change, whatever, it’s going to throw everybody off. At the end of the day I think it’s more important to finish this thing out well and finish it right, feel good about it and a lot of that stuff that they’re working on is going to translate right into what we do. Jay’s doing a great job and I want him to continue doing it.”
Soon, Stevens will become more engaged by reaching out to the players and working with them.
“I’m going to spend the week and the next couple weeks learning, thinking and spending time,” Stevens said. “I want to be very measured with that, make sure that I take the appropriate steps in that. When we get to work with our players, both individually and collectively, certainly there will be more and more of my voice as we move along. But one of the things that I really value is hiring a staff that I think is not only outstanding, but also has the power to be really impactful and vocal. I think that’s a big part of things.”
That staff has yet to come together outside of assistants Larranaga and Jamie Young, who were in place when Doc Rivers was coaching the team. Drew Cannon seems like a lock to join Stevens’ staff since he was a crucial part of the staff at Butler. He’s just 23 years old, but he’s an excellent stats guy. He has been in Orlando taking in summer league with the Celtics’ front office so it’s only a matter of time until he’s announced as part of the staff. There was some speculation that Brandon Miller could join Stevens in Boston, but he was tapped to become the next head coach at Butler.
At this point, Stevens is trying to find the right balance of coaches with NBA experience and coaches whom he’s familiar with from Butler, which is why the group hasn’t been assembled quickly.
“We’re working towards it and it’s going to be a little bit of a time,” Stevens said. “I want to make sure that we do it right and we get it right. Hopefully we have at least a couple weeks to play with. We’ve gotten a lot of interest, a lot of inquiries and I’m doing my due diligence in that. Obviously guys with some NBA experience are a big deal and then potentially a person that is more familiar with me. I think that is what I’m weighing and balancing, seeing and researching and doing my due diligence on right now. We’re going to get there, but again I want to take my time because I think it’s more important to get it right rather than get it done quickly.”
Even though Miller can’t make the leap to Boston with Stevens, it’s very possible that someone else from Butler ends up on his staff.
“Yeah, somebody that is close to me and knows my drill and the way of doing things is a positive,” Stevens said. “But they also have to have, if that’s the case, the ambition to really want to do it versus staying in college. Also, I want them to have been exposed to it and excited about it and that transition as well. It’s not the end-all-be-all, but it would certainly help in the transition.”
His staff will come together soon enough, but the important thing is that the Celtics landed a big fish in Stevens and he could very well guide the franchise back into contention in the very near future.
Warriors Improve Second Unit
Jermaine O’Neal and Toney Douglas agreed to terms on one-year deals the Warriors, according to Marc Stein of ESPN. The contracts will be finalized once the league’s moratorium is lifted on Wednesday.
O’Neal wanted to join a playoff team and, if all goes as planned, he’ll get his wish in Golden State.
Last year, the 34-year-old averaged 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 18.7 minutes for the season. When his playing time increased to 21.7 minutes per game in February, O’Neal averaged 11.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks off of the bench.
He’ll back up Andrew Bogut and give the Warriors another solid interior defender on the roster.
Douglas will serve as Jarrett Jack’s replacement, backing up Stephen Curry. The Warriors started reaching out to reserve points several days ago and weighed their options, but ultimately decided to go with the 27-year-old.
Douglas spent last season with the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings, changing teams halfway through the season after being dealt in the trade that also included Thomas Robinson and Patrick Patterson.
In 49 games with the Rockets, Douglas averaged 8.1 points and 1.9 assists in 18.6 minutes per game. In 22 games with the Kings, he averaged 6.1 points and 2.6 assists in 17.1 minutes per game.
O’Neal and Douglas give the Warriors some much-needed depth after the team traded away Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush in order to free up the necessary cap space to sign Andre Iguodala to a four-year deal worth $48 million.