Before becoming an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, Scott Morrison enjoyed sustained success as the head coach of the NBA G-League’s Maine Red Claws, guiding the Red Claws to three division titles, securing the franchise’s first playoff series win and becoming the Red Claws’ winningest coach.
If you ask current Red Claws head coach Brandon Bailey about Morrison’s path to the NBA, it’s evident that it’s one that he would eventually like to follow.
“Scott had great success here,” Bailey, a Chicago native, said of his predecessor. “He’s a great role model for me as far as where I’m trying to go.”
In his second season with Maine (his second season as a head coach anywhere) after working previously under Brad Stevens as the head video coordinator for the Celtics, Bailey is being given the opportunity to groom some of the Celtics’ up-and-coming youngsters who are trying to make a name for themselves.
“Brad’s on another planet with that stuff,” Bailey said of coach Stevens’ composed demeanor behind closed doors. “You almost want to emulate him as much as possible, because he is – if not the best, one of the best. It’s almost an impossible task to get to.”
Whether it’s getting advice from current and former Celtics assistants like Walter McCarty or Jay Larranaga, or accessing information he’s accumulated over the years working with a variety of distinguished coaches, it’s evident that Bailey has a garnered a wealth of knowledge in a short period of time.
“I’ve made a lot of adjustments, especially with the organization of my staff and practice planning,” Bailey said. “Things like that I’ve always just done the way coaches I’ve worked for in the past have done it…I’m still taking bits and pieces from guys I’ve been with, but it feels more authentic to me this year than anything else.”
Although Bailey hasn’t found as much initial success as he may have hoped for (the Red Claws went 17-33 last season and are currently 4-10 through 14 games this season), the night-to-night workload for G-League coaches presents challenges that they won’t experience anywhere else.
“With the G-League, you never know who’s going to be on the team you’re playing that night and who’s going to be on your team, which is one of the great reasons why it is one of the hardest coaching jobs in the world,” Bailey, who also worked as a scout in the Celtics organization, said. “And because of that, it’s the greatest coaching job in the world, because you’re put in so many situations.”
While Morison was lauded for his innovative offensive game plan during his tenure with the Red Claws, Bailey cut his teeth as a defensive-minded member of Stevens’ staff.
“He’s really a defensive-minded coach, kind of reminds me how it was playing for coach Thibs last year,” Marcus Georges-Hunt, who played last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves under Tom Thibodeau and was previously with the Red Claws for much of the 2016-17 season, said of Bailey. “He’s real focused on getting stops, big on details. If you’re not locked in, you’ll come out.”
Perhaps some of that intensity can be tied to the impressive coaching tree he’s fallen under.
Bailey got his start in 2011 with the Celtics as a video intern under Doc Rivers. With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo still hunting for a championship, it would’ve been easy for them to dismiss Bailey, who was just a few years removed from being a graduate assistant at DePaul. Instead, it was quite the opposite.
“They were really accepting of who you were, as long as you were doing your job to the best of your ability,” Bailey said. “The greatest thing I think about Doc is that he gets you to buy into winning…doing whatever your job is to the best of your ability.”
Bailey is also the son of Mike Bailey, the longtime coach at Saint Patrick High in Chicago who has helped send many of his assistants on to successful careers of their own.
“I’ve been around great coaches my entire life,” Bailey said, citing famed coaches like Doug Bruno and Jerry Wainwright, as well renowned NBA trainer Tim Grover, as influences. “All my dad’s assistants were like uncles to me, second fathers, and they’ve all gone on to have their own great careers as head coaches in other places in the Chicagoland area.”
With the release of the Celtics’ other Two-Way player, Walt Lemon Jr., and the need to have players like Robert Williams, Guerschon Yabusele and Brad Wanamaker up in Boston (even PJ Dozier has seen mop-up minutes with the Celtics), eight of the Red Claws’ 10 losses this season have been by five points or less.
But as Dozier, a Celtics Two-Way player, calmly said, “I’m here with a great group, a great organization. We’re going to string together some wins…We just have to be ready to finish games.”
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