John Beilein was the latest casualty of the college-to-NBA track, making the leap to the Cleveland Cavaliers after 43 years of coaching college basketball. Perhaps his time had already came and went at 67 years old, nonetheless he faced classic power-and-control issues that college coaches struggle to grapple with in the pros routinely.
Brad Stevens has been different, already matching KC Jones in wins but has eluded what nobody’s done in the NBA since Jones’ predecessor Bill Fitch — win a NBA title after directly coming to the NBA from a college program. Fitch took over the C’s in 1979-80 and won a championship the next year. He, like Beilein, started his NBA coaching career failing with the Cavaliers but was able to retain a reputation that served him successfully.
Many have failed, including Rick Pitino in Boston too, to maintain that same composure and authority since. Stevens may be the most successful, having made the playoffs in all but his first season while being one of the most unquestionably safe head coaches in the league. Still, he’s yet to reach a NBA Finals even with talented teams and the challenge of coaching egos showed during the disastrous 2018-19 season for everyone involved.
Expectations lowered this year, another season where most would accept something less than a title even in Stevens’ seventh go-around. It’s unclear how long that’ll last, but as The Garden Report discussed this was a reset year and happy one at that.
It’s worth considering whether Stevens has the ability to end that long streak of elusiveness college coaches face in succeeding at the highest level. Will Stevens ever win a title? Jeff Goodman and Bob Ryan discussed below.