I have good news and bad news for Brad Stevens. The bad news is that you were just hired to coach an NBA team that has no shot at winning any time soon. The good news is that there’s a nice piece of property that’s about to go on the market in North Attleborough.
Rick Pitino realized that coaching college kids and NBA kids is a completely different experience. In college you don’t win by coaching; you win by recruiting. And Pitino coached at Kentucky, which he called the “Roman Empire of College Basketball.” Because the school basically sold itself he was able to put together All-Star teams year after year. Then all he had to do was just get them to run a lot and boom, greatest coach in college basketball.
The NBA though? Doesn’t quite work like that. Michael Jordan still played in the NBA. Shaq and Kobe were uniting on the Lakers. The Sacramento Kings were sick. A young Tim Duncan was leading the Spurs. Kevin Garnett was eating people for lunch in Minnesota. Some little white guy named Steve Nash was making the Pheonix Suns relevant again. In the Celtics own division it was the Alonzo Mourning Miami Heat that were firmly in control.
And who did the Pitino go to war with? A bunch of former Kentucky players of course. The legendary players known as Ron Mercer, Tony Delk, Antoine Walker, and Walter McCarty. All former Wildcats that Pitino assumed would just continue to dominate. After all, he never lost with these guys before, so why start now? Oh wait, you mean we can’t dominate Shaq like we could Syracuse?
And a big problem with Pitino was he was given complete control of the team essentially. Unfortunately he has the attention span of a 10-year old boy with ADHD. He was supposed to build around the 3rd and 6th picks of the draft Chauncy Billups, and Ron Mercer. But he got bored with that after about a month and a half and traded Billups, who went on to be an NBA All-Star and won a championship in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons. The Pitino Celtics were a carousel of classic NBA nobodies that were good in college.
Stevens used the college basketball version of Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” to win. Basically Stevens is a nerdy guy who realized that you can use statistics to your advantage in order to win games. A lot of meathead coaches just tell their players bullshit about “heart and desire” and that they have to “get out there and give them their best shot for 40 minutes.” Anyone can say that though. Stevens has figured out a much nerdier and effective way to win though. Here are 2 examples of how he used data to beat Old Dominion in the 1st round of the 2011 tournament:
- Before OD Stevens analyzed their game tapes and concluded that point guard Kent Bazemore went to the right 75% of the time. Butler was able to minimize his impact by constantly forcing him to drive left, by denying him the right. I love nerd stuff like this. It just makes too much sense. For years coaches have just said things like “he likes to go right”. Well how often does he? When he does go right what percent of the time do teams score? Butler won several games in both tournaments by razor thin margins due to this micromanagement.
- Old Dominion was a great offensive rebounding team, collecting 45% of their own missed shots. Solution? The game plan had to rely on defensive rebounding, even if it meant sacrificing guard defense on the perimeter. The Bulldogs outrebounded OD 32-29. Old Dominion collected 39% of their missed shots on the glass. Butler won 61-59. Had OD gotten 1 or 2 more offensive rebounds, they likely win the game.
Will this work in the NBA? Yes, but only if you give it time. But it’s only because it hasn’t really been tried before. NBA coaches are the biggest joke in all of sports. Occasionally a Pitino, or a John Calipari gets the call up to coach in the big leagues. But besides that the NBA just passes around loser coaches like no other league. I couldn’t tell you half the NBA coaches right now. Avery Johnson, Vinny Del Negro, Maurice Cheeks, Byron Scott, Rick Adelman, Larry Drew, etc. The list goes on and on of guys that just suck, get fired from crapbag team, and then get hired by another crapbag team.
I was totally expecting the Celtics to get one of these coaches. After all, they are going to suck for a few years. Might as well get a proven loser like most of the teams in this league seem to covet. Vinny Del Negro? Sure, whatever. At least I can boo him while the ship goes down. I was hoping we would be bad enough for a couple years so that we could compile at least three top 10 draft picks. Then take all of those picks and just trade them all for whoever the 2016 version of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are.
But the Stevens signing was shocker. I had no clue the Celtics were even interviewing this guy. Celtics “insider” A. Sherrod Blakely did not even mention that he was being interviewed once. Look at his Twitter page. Not one mention of Stevens before yesterday’s signing. He’s about as inside the Celtics as I am after reading the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.