When Jackie MacMullan talks/writes/breathes about the Celtics, we should all pull up a chair and listen, especially if she's profiling Brad Stevens. In her latest feature for ESPN's TrueHoop, she details what makes the Celtics' head coach one of the NBA's superstars without ever scoring a point or blocking a shot. He's earned the respect of LeBron James, Gregg Popovich, and yes, even Rajon Rondo and more importantly, the trust from his current players.
Check out the entire piece, but here's a snippet to whet your appetite. One of Stevens' most endearing quality for his team is his cool demeanor. Whether it's Gino time, they're down 20, or he's just drawn up a game-winning ATO, Stevens' poker face and crossed arms never changes. Where did he develop this stoic facade? Part of it came from a Celtic legend:
Ask Stevens for his favorite NBA playoff moment, and he'll say it was when Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller drilled his epic 3-point shot over Michael Jordan in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals and jubilantly pirouetted down the court. But what most evokes Stevens' enthusiasm is Pacers coach Larry Bird's deadpan reaction.
"He's just standing there,'' Stevens says with a grin. "Nothing.''
Yesterday, Brad Stevens finished sixth in Coach of the Year honors behind the likes of Steve Kerr, who won with 64 first-place votes, and Popovich. Kerr is a worthy recipient of the award, with his Warriors racking up a record 73 wins this season, and Pop is Pop, but there's no way Stevens should finish behind Steve Clifford and Dwane Casey. Terry Stotts deservedly came in second after leading the Trailblazers to the playoffs when the team was effectively blown up last summer, but Clifford and Casey are coaching veteran teams that have been together for a few years.
I mean this with the utmost respect, but Stevens has done the most with his roster. The Celtics are composed of nine players on their rookie contracts, three that came to the team only last year, and Amir Johnson as the sole free agent signing last summer. He unlocked the potential in basketball enigmas Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner, and he developed Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder into effective two-way players.
Collectively, they're a young team that doesn't have a lot of experience in the league and with each other. Yet, this team managed to win 48 games in the regular season, win road games in Oklahoma City, Golden State, Cleveland, and Miami, and is in a heated battle with last year's Eastern Conference runner-up.
Stevens has grown a reputation as a player’s coach. Here’s some intel as to why guys love playing for him so much.https://t.co/CRVP8suNrs— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 27, 2016
After tonight's crushing loss in Atlanta, Stevens remained his calm self and a positive example for his players. After Thomas suffered a mild ankle sprain when the team was down big in the 4th quarter, reporters asked him why would he have his All-Star in the game during a blowout. He turned a negative into a positive and replied, "I know that it was quite the task and quite the mountain to overcome, but we've all seen this team do some crazy things when they are down." When asked about how he would motivate his team after such a poor showing, he deadpanned, "I don't think there's any need to light into anybody and give a Knute Rockne speech in Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference playoffs."
I'm not sure what the question was in his pre-game presser before Game 5, but I love Stevens' answer here about the process. That's Brad Even Stevens. After Tuesday's loss, he said, "you get ready for the next one and you prepare really well and hope to come out the way we came out, which was focused." Sounds like a plan. Stevens will surely make an adjustment here and there to the Xs and Os before Game 6, but rest assured that mentally, he'll have this team ready.