At the All-Star break of the 2015-2016 NBA season, the Boston Celtics, lead by head coach Brad Stevens, sit in third place in the Eastern Conference. No one could have predicted that the Celtics, who couldn’t even settle on a starting lineup and rotation for most of the first half of the season, would sit third in the East above the Heat, Pacers, and Bulls. The post Pierce-Allen-Garnett era in Boston is looking bright after Danny Ainge made a plethora of trades to let go of older veterans who still had a lot left to give, in order to build up draft picks for the coming years. Still, a team with no true superstar, and one first time All-Star in Isaiah Thomas, is led exceptionally by Brad Stevens.
The Brad Stevens Led Boston Celtics
The 39 year old coaching prodigy first came to head of the coaching market when he led the Butler University Bulldogs to back-to-back NCAA Final Four appearances. Although Butler lost in the NCAA title game in two consecutive years, they took the term “Cinderella Team” to a whole new level. They had the sports world buzzing. Under the guidance of Stevens, Butler became a basketball program to respect and a team to always watch out for in March. Stevens was able to use star players Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack to carry the team to success. But it was his ability to get the best out of his role players which made him a stand out coach. For example, Amir Johnson and Evan Turner are now focal points of the Celtics rotation. Stevens also gained support as a college coach because he would push his players to earn their degree. His motivation and true inspiration allowed the team to come together at the right time every season and probably bust every bracket filled out.
Brad Stevens joined the Celtics in the 2013-2014 season. After a poor first season, in which they missed the playoffs, Stevens led the Celtics to the playoffs in his second year. This season the Celtics have surpassed all expectations at the halfway point and are competing with title contenders night in and night out. Arguably, the Celtics had one of their best performances of the season in a double-overtime loss to the then undefeated Golden State Warriors. The roster consists mostly of role players, who Stevens utilizes well around his star point guard Isaiah Thomas. However, Stevens deserves a lot of credit as well. A fan of statistical analysis, Stevens follows the stat line of each game very closely. His statistical reasoning allows him to implement a very offensively efficient team. As a result, the Celtics are the best offensive team in the Eastern Conference. Yet, Stevens’ biggest focus is defense. He says team defense is the key to beating any team no matter the oppositions skill set. As a result of his defensive mindset, the Celtics are currently fourth in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage with 43.5%. This is certainly a mantra Stevens used with his team at Butler, which caused many upsets during his tenure with the Bulldogs.
The future is looking bright for the Celtics. Brad Stevens’ coaching methods of inspiration, statistical analysis, and team defense are the foundations for a Celtics team, without a superstar player, making their presence felt in the league. In many instances we see a college coach fail in the spotlight of the NBA. However, Stevens’ calm demeanor has him as one of the best coaches the league has. His success so far is great to see. A coach from a small, mid-major school makes it to NBA, and has the same type of underdog mentality. This mindset motivated his college players and now inspires the best offensive team, filled with players who simply want to win. Yes, the players deserve credit for the effort they play with every night. And Danny Ainge, the general manager, orchestrated great trades to plan out the future. Yet, Brad Stevens deserves credit for being the one who is able to put everything together. He is one of the youngest coaches ever and his youth plays a part in how he can connect with his players.
These are not the Celtics we are used to seeing. With Bill Russel, Larry Bird or Paul Pierce, there was an always a Hall of Famer putting on the Celtic green. Currently, that certainly is not the case so far. Stevens just wants to win and has a team of players with no egos who share the same goal. With tons of draft picks, a great point-guard in Isaiah Thomas to build around, and one of the best coaches in the game, the Celtics might be closer to that 18th ring than most people suspect.