Young Celtics coach changing perceptions


Jan 2

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Brad Stevens may be changing coaching in the NBA. Well, not exactly how the game is played. But the former Butler University coach who looks like he’s still matriculating has been one of the surprise new coaches in the NBA season and going a long way toward changing the attitude of college coaches coming to the NBA.

The Celtics even with a roster that was decommissioned, in effect, to begin a rebuilding with the trades of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and with Rajon Rondo out injured all season have remained in contention—for whatever that means—in the Eastern Conference and second in their division.

“I don’t get to up or down with wins or losses,” Stevens said before the Bulls hosted the Celtics at the United Center Thursday. “The right way is to learn from everything you are doing and apply it. I enjoyed my time at Butler and thus far in Boston.

“Basketball is basketball,” added Stevens. “The fun part is some things don’t work (from) the college game and some things translate well. There’s a little more continuity in college (at least at Butler) with guys there four years. But at this level things can happen quickly (with trades) and there’s that dynamic to manage as well.”

Although there was a history of successful college coaches in the NBA, like Dick Motta, John MacLeod, Del Harris, Jack Ramsay and Bill Fitch, the view of coaches making the jump has changed in recent years with the struggles of coaches like Tim Floyd, Leonard Hamilton, John Calipari, Lon Kruger, Mike Montgomery and Mike Dunlap.

But Stevens, with a six-year contract with the Celtics, is quietly changing the attitudes with his professionalism and adapting to the NBA game. And it may help change the perception for NBA teams as it has in the NFL. It’s also why it’s believed many veteran NBA coaches, like George Karl and Mike Dunleavy, are having a more difficult time getting back into the NBA.

“The biggest difference,” said Stevens, ”is how many things you have to accomplish with limited time on the practice court. And from a game management standpoint understanding the preparation and how quickly (is the) turnaround with a lack of practice time.”

As a result, Stevens said the addition of former Bulls assistant and NBA veteran Ron Adams has been a major assist.

“He’s been a longtime friend of mine and he’s been great,” said Stevens. “When I hired him he characterized himself as my editor. I thought that was a good phrase. He talks to me about what will work and won’t, to try this or that. He’s been great to have around. He’s one of those guys who’s been in coaching a long time and has so many experiences.”

Stevens also said he’s had considerable help from former Celtics assistant and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Stevens said he and his assistant at Butler came to Bulls practices and met with Thibodeau and Thibodeau has keep in contact.

“He is an elite coach,” Stevens said of Thibodeau. “They are outstanding defensively. They are so sound in what they do and can change or tweek and their players know their roles inside out. I admire the way they have continuity and play together and hope that we can get to that point.”

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