Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal approached me about an article he was writing on the success and fan favor that has found Brad Stevens. I thought about it for a few minutes and I came up with my favorite analogy yet.
"He has the potential to be the Larry Bird of coaching," said CelticsBlog founder Jeff Clark.
Think about it. He's got that "aww shucks" Indiana boy exterior, but if you peel back the outer layer just a bit, you see a straightforward, hyper-intense competitor who's 2 steps ahead of the competition at any given moment.
Granted, to reach Larry Legend status Stevens is going to need to put a few banners in the rafters. This is Boston after all, and he will ultimately be judged by titles. Some of that will require quite a bit of luck and some savvy moves by Danny Ainge. Still, is it that hard to picture Brad Stevens calmly drawing up a play that helps us win game 7 in the Finals? I can picture it so clearly in my head that it seems like I'll have deja-vu years from now.
Players love him (by all reports that I've read) because he's honest, direct, and treats them like adults. Fans love him for the same reasons and because we can see all our favorite qualities being translated onto the court. Hard nosed defense, team-first attitude, and relentless effort.
Cohen goes on:
But the basketball diehards here see the same things as the opposing players and coaches who sing Stevens's praises: a team that plays smart on offense and tough on defense, outhustles opponents and outperforms itself. They seem to accept that the Celtics are years away from another title, but they have a highly watchable team that wins more than it loses. And it could be worse. They could be the New York Knicks.
There are teams out there with better talent (see: Timberwolves) but the Celtics have a star coach in place and that's a huge advantage. We are already seeing the word get out that Brad Stevens is a drawing card to potential free agents. Players talk and they know that Brad brings out the best in players and puts the team in position to win. When this summer comes and the available money is pretty much equal around the league, I do believe that some guys will pick Boston simply because of the culture that Stevens is cultivating there.
Perhaps I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Maybe I'm suffering from that old fan symptom called hyperbole. There's still a lot of time left in Brad's career and a lot can happen. But if you ask me, he's on his way to becoming legen... (wait for it) ...DARY.