It is no secret that I am one of Danny Ainge's biggest critics. However on the same token, I am willing to give credit where it is due. Such is the case when he hired Brad Stevens on July 3, 2013. I have always liked Stevens and was thrilled about the hire, given the fact that he took a little-known (at the time) Butler team to the 2010 NCAA Championship Game and did it again in 2011. He seemed like a player's coach, not in the buddy-buddy type of way but one that the players' respected.
Although the Celtics stumbled to a 25-57 record (which was sort of expected, given the fact that it was a rebuilding year), I liked the job Stevens did. As I watched him on the court and in post-game interviews I was amazed at how positive he was. He was very even-tempered, and seemed to focus on the bright sports of a game moreso than the negative ones. Even-keel is the word I would use to describe his temperament. However, just because he appears level-headed does not mean he lacked intensity as former Butler player Joel Cornette told the New York Times in April of 2010 .
"Everyone sees Brad as a level-headed, calm and cool coach," said Joel Cornette, a former star player at Butler. "But he's about as competitive of a guy as I know. We would get into it constantly, whether playing two-on-two or arguing about players' having better college careers."
Playing the rookies is something I also like him for, Granted, during a rebuilding year, you really do not have much of a choice. but Doc Rivers was very hesitant to play the rookies at times. Stevens will substitute whomever he feels can give them the best chance to win at that juncture in the game. Doc did not always do that either, opting to stick to his rotations a little more than many of us would have liked.
Don't get me wrong Rivers is a very good coach, easily one of the top-five coaches in the game right now but sometimes his strategies and substitution patterns were lacking. He seemed to stick to his guns rather than branching out and taking a chance at the unknown.
An element that Stevens brings to the table that I like, but one which I have not seen applied on the court yet is statistical analysis. He is a big proponent of it and hired in the words of Pete Thamel, a "secret weapon" in statistical guru Drew Cannon while at Butler. As Stevens told Thamel, Cannon's lineup analysis was "unreal."
"It includes every player, pairs of players, groups of three, big lineups, small lineups, etc.," Stevens said. Cannon will also include the offensive and defensive efficiency of Butler's players from previous matchups with an opponent, which Stevens said, "Will help me determine probable sub patterns, late game lineups, etc."
Will statistical analysis affect how the Celtics play basketball in the future? Maybe, maybe not. It is nice to have that option though,don't you think?
Stevens has got the team headed in the right direction. This rebuild may take a while, but if there is any coach that can get the Celtics back to championship contention, I believe it will be him. He is knowledgeable and good at what he does, much like Doc was and still is today.
Make no mistake, Rivers did many great and memorable things while he ruled the roost here, most notably and unforgettably, a championship which we all thank him for Stevens is just a better coach for the long haul, and it is for that reason that I have to side with Ainge on this one.