The new head coach of the Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, recently sat down for a one-on-one interview with Comcast SportsNet New England. In the 13-minute interview, CSNNE's Kyle Draper asked Stevens about a number of topics, including his process-orientated philosophy, the adjustment to the NBA, and the current roster. Stevens, as you would expect, was articulate in all of his responses.
I was glad Kyle Draper asked Brad Stevens about how his philosophy of "the process" potentially contrasts Celtics fan's mantra of "it's all about 18." Stevens said, "When you look at it realistically, there is no question that you want to win Banner 18. That is the thing that you dream about every single day, but it's not just about what you want, it's about what you do every day. You don't get the chance to get those things if you show up occasionally."
Stevens is right, and that is one of the reasons why I'm sold on his potential as a coach in the NBA. Last season Doc Rivers put a spotlight on an empty spot for a banner and even said something along the lines of, "we only need to get through Miami, so we are only preparing for them in practices." While this all sounded good and motivational to me, I thought it was fairly shortsighted. There is much more that needs to be done in order to win an NBA title.
I personally tend to follow a more Bill Belichick style of approach when it comes to sports (and life), which is something Brad Stevens clearly does too. That is, you take things day-by-day, you must focus on what you are doing now in order to succeed later. In Boston's case, worrying about the playoffs in April only distracts them from the work that must be done in October in order to prepare for the long season.
As Brad Stevens eloquently put it when asked about his expectations, "My expectations are simple right now. It's simple to say, but hard to do. Embrace the process of growth. Every single day we need to get better and we need to be able to build."
Speaking about long processes, star point guard Rajon Rondo is still rehabbing from his torn-ACL. Stevens wasn't able to shed any light on potential return date, but he did say Rondo is working extremely hard to get back, "He's doing everything he can to get back as quickly as he can. He's been really diligent and great to have around"
More interestingly, Stevens was asked about the possibility of starting the year without Rajon Rondo. He said when the time comes there are a number of options. Either the team can play a style as if they had Rondo, using other players in that exact role. Or they can play maximize the abilities of the players actually on the court. In that case, they would then have to adjust to Rondo midstream.
Before Rondo gets back, Stevens says he must make adjustments of his own. He says that the eight exhibition games will be extremely important for him so he can adjust to the 48-minute game, the timeout rules, how the ball advances, and other unique aspects of the NBA.
Then again, Stevens says, "When you break it all down, at the end of the day, basketball is basketball. It's about who executes the way they want to play in a given game."
Basketball is basketball, that's right; but can the season start already? I'm sure Brad Stevens is just itching for the day to come too. October needs to get here, pronto.
I transcribed the entire one-on-one interview with Brad Stevens and you can click below to read that.
Q: Two months into the job, how is it going for you?
A: "Well, I think it's just like we had talked about two months ago: the goal has been to get myself adjusted and to get myself more acquainted with both the NBA game and the people in this facility. You know, though there have been some days that haven't gone as well, its mostly really good days. I'm pleased with how we're progressing from a standpoint that we have our entire staff in place. We have a lot of our players in town and have been in the facility working, so it's been a good time to get to know them, and get everyone on the same page, or at least start to."
Q: What kind of things can you do now to get adjusted to the NBA game?
A: "Well I think one of the things that will really be important are the eight exhibition games for me just because I'll get a feel for the 48-minute game, get a feel for the rotations, get a feel for the timeout rules, which are unique. Advancing the ball is unique. All kinds of situational things that are unique to the NBA game. You're already doing your defensive drills just a little bit differently because you have to be leery of the defensive three-seconds, those types of things. Bottom line is there's so much that's unique about the college game, but when you break it all down, at the end of the day, basketball is basketball. It's about who executes the way they want to play in a given game."
Q: What have you learned about being the coach of the Boston Celtics?
A: "I don't know. Anytime you're in a leadership role or a management role one of the things you can't predict is the challenges that each new day will bring. You try to be as consistent as you can in your effort and your focus on promoting all the things that are really important to being a good basketball team. Although we don't have all of our guys here -- and that'll really increase once they all get here -- I think that's the challenge in any leadership role, just being flexible and being able to respond to different situations but at the end of the day be able to create a consistent way about you and about your operation that you're a part of."
Q: What about Rajon Rondo and his rehab?
A: "It's been great; he's working really hard on his rehab. I've been asked a lot about the timeline but I'm the furthest thing from an athletic trainer or doctor, so I don't know. And I haven't even really asked about the timeline. I think it's more about that he's doing everything he can to get back as quickly as he can. He's been very diligent when he's been in town. He's been diligent everywhere but in our short time together while he's been in Boston; he's been really diligent and great to have around. We had a couple of young guys come into the gym and just having him here gave them an extra bounce in their step That speaks to how people view him around here."
Q: How do you prepare for the season not knowing if he'll be ready?
A: "That's a really good question because what he may do really well may not be as good of a fit for somebody else. So do you play in a way that is catered towards what he does really well and start that way knowing that coming back or when he comes back, we don't know yet. Or do you try to change midstream? The good news is that we have a lot of other things that fit well together with regard to the players and that will allow us to play a consistent style of play throughout. That's a good question because it's always a challenge whenever you've got a person who is a big part of the equation that's injured."
Q: How satisfied are you with your roster right now?
A: "I don't know a whole lot about how all of those things work with regard to the free agency and I'm learning about the collective bargaining agreement and all the structures and luxury taxes and all of those things that come into play. What I'm trying to do is coach the guys that are here. That will be my intent and my focus. As I get used to them and we get more acquainted with each other, then I'll have a better feel for my thoughts or my opinion on 'Do we have the right guys in the right places?' Until then I'm not going to pre-judge that. I'm going to go and coach each guy as hard as I can. I think I forget who told me this the first time but someone told me ‘all you need is a board in your office that says ‘coach your team.' Everything else can be a distraction."
Q: With that said, coach, do you have any expectations for this bunch?
A: "My expectations are simple right now. It's simple, simple to say, but hard to do. Embrace the process of growth. Every single day we need to get better and we need to be able to build. There are other organizations that have a lot veteran players and coaches that have been there a long time and they can hit the ground running. We've got to, each day; build so we can catch up to hit the ground once we play against them."
Q: I ask that because a lot of people think this will be a downfall for the Celtics, with the playoffs being a long shot. How do you view that?
A: "The last thing I'm thinking about is April, I'm only thinking about, well, the furthest my mind is thinking about right now is October 1st, because it's the first day of team practice. I'm starting to work on our progressions for practice so we can be the best that we can be. Basketball is such a game where game-by-game it's about who brings the most focused team, who is the most together team, and that can make a difference for a number of games over the course of the season. In that number of games, if you win more than you lose, then you control what you can control a little bit better, and then you let the chips fall where they fall at the end of the season. I'm a big process guy, and I'm a big ‘the score takes care of itself' kind of guy. Wherever we end up at the end of the year is a result of embracing getting better every day."
Q: I have to ask about Jared Sullinger. What was your reaction when you first heard the news?
A: "My initial reaction was the same as everybody else that I've talked to; very disappointed, disappointed in Jared and his actions, the allegations. But what we've done is we've tried to find out as much as we possibly can and we're going to let the legal process play out. Then, from what I can tell, the NBA and the Celtics will determine the next steps. I'm certainly very disappointed and I've shared that with Jared. In our, when I've talked to him, he was very remorseful and very disappointed."
Q: One guy we haven't heard from is Gerald Wallace, what's his status with the team?
A: "Gerald will be here when it's time for training camp. I don't have an exact date that he'll be here but I'm excited to have Gerald. I think Gerald's a guy that can do a number of different things on both ends of the floor. It's like anything else; it's about putting people in positions where they can be most successful."
Q: Have you communicated with him? There was some talk that he might not be happy about the trade.
A: "Well I think at the end of the day, anytime you have change and it's kind of thrust upon you, and with these guys their lives can be changed in a heartbeat; with where they live, with regard to their travel plans, whatever they are, all of those things. So, I think there's always going to be that ‘change is good,' but change also brings some trepidation or some challenges. So I wanted him to know that we're excited to have him and are looking forward to having him here."
Q: The last few years the mantra around here has been "Banner number 18." What do you say to the fans that still continue that mantra, but yet you say embrace the process and they may get ahead of what we are doing here?
A: "So, I think it's interesting; we're all after the same thing. When I was coaching at Butler we had one goal and that was to win the NCAA Championship. The reason we had only one goal was because if you set it any lower, you'll hit that ceiling and you won't go past it. I don't think you ever want to put ceilings over yourself. When you look at it realistically, there is no question that you want to win Banner 18. That is the thing that you dream about every single day, but it's not just about what you want, it's about what you do every day. You don't get the chance to get those things if you show up occasionally. You have a chance to get those things if you build and build and build and build and build, then those opportunities happen as a result of a long process. And, you know, there are a lot of teams that are really good that never get that opportunity. So, I think that's the bottom line. Whether you say your goal is Banner 18 or you say your goal is to embrace the process, the bottom line is getting Banner 18 is a long process and it's a process of growth. Whether you're the most experienced team in the league or the youngest team in the league, it's a long, long process."
Q: Looking at the roster, you have a young team. How much will the success fall on your shoulders to get them to perform?
A: "Well, I don't think it falls on any one person's shoulders. We've got to get on the same page, there's no question about that. I would never put that on the player's shoulders, I'm happy to take that because I think that at the end of the day, you're playing against really good teams. You're not playing against guys that aren't good players. And you're playing against really experienced teams. When you look at the East in particular, you start looking at the top of the East; there are three, four, or five teams that stand out without even doing any more research, just based on what they've accomplished over the course of their careers and such. So it's not as easy as saying that you have a group of talented individuals. Those guys have to play together and they have to play together with the purpose of beating teams that also have talented individuals."
Q: When you become the head coach of the Boston Celtics, does an automatic hatred of teams like the Miami Heat and New York Knicks come with it?
A: "No, I think I'll have to learn that over time; I don't think it'll take long. At the same time it's funny because even your biggest rivals that you've coached against in college, you have the ultimate respect for. Nobody respects what Miami's accomplished more than I do. Then you look at it and I've always thought one of the more unheralded people in all of the NBA is Erik Spoelstra. I just think he does a phenomenal job with that team. They are cutting edge offensively and I think the guys play really hard and together. Their backs were against the wall a few times and they still got it done. And I don't know Mike Woodson personally, but I've always had a great deal of respect for Mike. He's an Indianapolis guy as well. So, I think any time you have those things, it might be a burning hatred by the fans, but it's probably the ultimate respect for the people involved."