Terry Stotts has lead a lottery team from last year to the top record in the Western Conference. Jeff Hornacek, has taken a perennial bottom feeder and given them a make over into playoff contention. However, neither is my coach of the year.
Brad Stevens came to the Celtics from the college ranks. One elite coach after another has come from the NCAA and flamed out terribly in the NBA. In college, coaches are the face of the program, their word is law. At the NCAA level, if a player argues with a coach, the player is as good as gone. The NBA is a players league, more often than not when a team has to choose between it’s players and coach, the coach is headed for the unemployment line.
Brad Stevens isn’t the type of college coach that rules with an iron fist, he isn’t the type of NBA coach that survives by being best friends with his players. Brad Stevens is a basketball savant that gets the best from each and every one of his players, through hard work and creativity.
With the NBA being a players league, owners are left to do whatever will appease their superstar. This can mean, ignoring defense and letting all stars do whatever they like on and off the court. The results are overpaid athletes whose teams never reach their potential.
Stevens has been a breath of fresh air in a league where the inmates run the asylum. With the confidence that six years of job security brings, Stevens has quickly put a system in place that has allowed many players to have career years.
Before the season the Celtics were picked to be one of the worst teams in the NBA. Their fans had prepared themselves for a year of tanking and an elite prospect in next year’s loaded draft. What they got was a young leader who has the chance to be the face of franchise for the extended future.
The Celtics currently have the 9th best defense in the NBA, which is astonishing considering every other team in the top 10 has a legitimate shot blocking center. Coach Stevens has used stingy perimeter defense and an utter refusal to allow three point shots to mask the lack of an interior presence.
While every team in the league is focusing on shooting more 3’s, the Celtics are making sure teams don’t make threes against them. Boston allows the 5th least three point attempts, the 3rd least three point makes and the best three point percentage against in the NBA.
The Celtics protect the three point line at the expense of committing fouls and sometimes even protecting the paint. This is a revolutionary idea that goes against what every basketball coach has ever taught about defense. It’s outside the box thinking like this and Stevens ability to convince his team to execute it that tells fans all they need to know about Stevens.
Brad Stevens has gotten the most out of his players by using a system that fits them best. He has invested time in every player to improve their deficiencies and reinforce their strengths.
All the Celtics have been effected by Stevens guiding hand, but some stand out more than others. Brandon “No Pass” Bass has set career highs in blocks, steals, rebounds, and even assists under the wiz kid. Jordan Crawford who was traded for expiring contracts after Washington had given up on him, won the Eastern Conference player of the week while posting career assist, rebounding and shooting numbers. Under Stevens, Avery Bradley has become a potent offensive weapon, scoring a career high 13.5 points a game on 46.8% shooting.
With all the ways Stevens has gotten the best out of his players, it bares watching how he will deal with his only all star, Rajon Rondo. If he is able to work his magic on Rondo, the team picked to finish at the bottom of the East might find itself as the three seed in the East, without Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett.