Basketball is basketball, right? Yes, but not exactly. Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens sat down with ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman to discuss the differences between college and the NBA. He also talks about a number of other topics, including the "college coach" label and his budding relationship with Rajon Rondo.
On the college and NBA differences
"The game's so much different. The game is so much different than college. When I say that -- basketball is basketball in some ways, a great extra pass is a great extra pass, a great effort play is a great effort play, -- you play so many possessions. You talk in college and there were games where you'd play 65-to-70 possessions. Here, you're minimum 110-to-120. And so now, you're almost playing two games. So you've got to be prepared going into each game to not only play in structure, yet uncalled scenarios."
Stevens on his coaching heroes
"I think growing up in Indiana; you have a list of coaching heroes, right? Obviously, you have great coaches like Gene Keady, but I'd say the two that stood out to me were coach (Bob) Knight, because my dad played football at IU, then Tony Dungy when he was with the Colts. He coached the way that I want to coach. He acted the way that I'd like to be perceived act. I really admire him for that."
On Tony Dungy as a leader
"I just thought that when I got a chance to sit down with coach Dungy, he was the same guy that everybody portrayed him to be. It wasn't a different story behind closed doors. He is authentic, he is a leader, he is not overly verbose or loud, but you can tell that everyday there is a purpose to what their organization is doing. I thought he led them in a great way."
Favorite thing about Boston
"You know, we've really enjoyed it but we haven't been downtown a lot. We have been, we've taken the kids to two Red Sox games. To watch their rise, their season, and just be in the city while that's happening; it's pretty neat."
On sleeping or watching the Red Sox
"There's an issue there, right, because if I do [stay awake], and things don't go well, then that's not good. But if I fall asleep, then I get crushed for falling asleep; so all I've tried to do is be honest and good things have happened. Hey, I'm rooting for them and getting up to watch the YouTube highlights when I get up.
On why college coaches struggle in the NBA
"Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. One, it's a much different game. Number two; you're defining success differently than I define success. Because they may have coached really well, they may have not gotten a lot of time. Two of the best coaches in our game at any level are [Kentucky head coach John] Calipari and [Louisville head coach Rick] Pitino. At any level. If they had an opportunity to coach in the NBA again, I'm sure that in the right set of circumstances, they'd be considered two of the best coaches at any level. And what they've done is they've used this as an experience to let them grow and get better. Now they are elite of elite. I don't look at it as a failure for those guys. I look at it as a part of the path to where they are. But from my standpoint, I'm just really focused to not worry about the transition, not worry about being labeled as a college coach or not, not worried about what people think with regards to college coach, and just be myself and try to coach as well as I can."
On his relationship with Rondo
"Rajon, one of the things I've tried to do with Rajon as we do with any player that would be in a leadership position would be, to share YouTube videos, to share articles, if I have a book lying around that I think he'd like to read or would stretch him to think; I've always done that with any of our players. Rondo and I have a lot of similarities in the things we want to see as far as our team getting better, as far as our guys getting better, and as far as he can best impact guys. Just picking things that maybe come across my Twitter timeline, maybe come across an email from a friend, or maybe just an oldie but a goodie, a book that you've read and really enjoyed. Most of it is about process. It's about being great every single day, not being too high or too low and just going after it. I told him the other day in my office that he has a chance, there's some great Celtic leaders of all time, right? But this is a unique opportunity for him to be in that mix down the road. There is a clear-cut leader, and he is our clear-cut best player, and this is a great opportunity for him. I think he's really anxious about that challenge."
On Rondo's potential as a leader
"Guys want to get better. Good players don't become good players because they're not enthusiastic about their job, or about being better. So, that doesn't surprise me at all. I knew from the first moment that I talked to him that he was going to be a person that would think not just about what you're doing, but why you're doing it. That's a good thing. When you run a play, this is a great example, when you run a play, there are five guys in five spots. And most basketball players will go to their spot, do what they're supposed to do, but they won't know what the other four spots do, because they don't understand why you're doing them. He gets it all. It's no different in leading, it's no different in why we're coaching or running an organization; he understands the big picture and I think it's really important to share and talk about that, because he's a big part of this."