With the litany of college basketball coaches that have made the transition to being a head coach and the NBA and failed, there were semi-warranted questions about the Boston Celtics’ decision to hire former Butler head coach Brad Stevens this summer to coach a team that had just traded away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett while the only remaining star in Rajon Rondo remained out recovering from a torn ACL.
While with the Bulldogs in college, Stevens became a wizard of maximizing his players’ talents and getting the most from the cards he was dealt. At Butler, he was never truly able to get the bevy of five-star recruits that he would at a bigger school, but he got the players that he wanted and guys that would listen to him and play with tenacity and toughness.
What’s been remarkable, though, is that Stevens’ ability to do what he did at Butler has translated to the NBA early on in his tenure with the Celtics. Sure, the Celtics dropped to 13-18 on the year on New Year’s Eve, but they would still be the eight seed in the East if the playoffs started today and are just 1.5 games back in the Atlantic Division right now. Considering where we thought this team would end up on paper, 13 wins through 31 games is actually impressive.
Stevens has come out and simply won his team over. There’s no denying that this team—a team still without Rondo on the floor—isn’t the most talented in the world. However, Stevens has come in, won the locker room, and has these guys fighting and clawing themselves into games that they probably shouldn’t be competitive in.
While there’s still over half of the season remaining, you have to look at Stevens as an early candidate to be the NBA’s Coach of the Year. Not only has he come in and been great in a new league almost right way, but he’s also possibly doing the best job with little to work with in the league. If that’s not worthy of recognition or an award, I might not know anything about basketball.