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Brad Stevens was a smart hire for Boston… if they really are rebuilding

Jul 3, 2013, 9:15 PM EDT

Brad Stevens AP

I like this hire. Boston made a smart move.

Brad Stevens was a coach on the rise, something a lot of people recognized around basketball. He used the principles of advanced statistics and a focus on defense to win at least 22 games a year at Butler and become one of the hottest coaches in the college game. As Dan Devine noted at Ball Don’t Lie, hiring a coach is a matter of balancing risk and reward and in this case there is the potential of a lot of reward without that much risk.

This could really work…

Providing Boston is fully committed to rebuilding.

The worst thing Boston can do is a pseudo rebuild where Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green and Brandon Bass make the Celtics decent — like six to 10 seed in the middle of the pack with some big contracts like Green and Gerald Wallace being an anchor on a total rebuild. That is how you get stuck in a rut in the middle of the conference.

If the Celtics are going to rebuild, they should go the Full Wiggins. If you’re going to be bad, be bad.

You can argue that at 27 and with plenty of skills, the Celtics should rebuild around Rondo. It could work, but to me he’s a No. 2 guy, a facilitator on a good team who makes guys better, but he still needs guys with boatloads of talent to set up. That’s what he was with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from 2008 to 2010. But he’s not a guy who can carry a team by himself ala Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

If you rebuild with Rondo, you still need one of those guys. And with Rondo on the roster it’s harder to get him via the draft. With those big contracts on the books, it’s harder to get one via free agency.

Stevens is a young at age 36. That is younger than Jason Kidd, younger than Kevin Garnett, but also the same age as Pat Riley when he got his first job. He is well suited to coaching and helping grow a younger team.

The Celtics need to give him that younger team — meaning if they can find a good deal for Rajon Rondo, pull the trigger. Go young, sell some hope in Boston in a few years.

Because Stevens is a guy who might well be able to deliver on his promise, if you give him time and the right team.

  1. drunkenjunk - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    You’re forgetting Bradley. He will play a huge part as well. Him Green and bass alone will make them better than a lot of the garbage in the east.

    • fredagsedb - Jul 4, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Exactly. Good points.

      WHY THEY CAN BE GOOD: Rondo, Bradley and Green are 3 good defensive players. If you’re shaking your head at Green’s mention check his games against LeBron and Melo this year. He did as good a job as just about any on them. If they get a guy to protect them rim, this could be a pretty good defensive team. And getting Rondo and Green out running will be deadly.

      A starting 5 of Rondo, Bradley, Green, Wallace & Olynyk if they all buy in (especially Rondo) will be good. They could haunt people on D, and score in the other end before you’d know it. And with Crawford providing some punch off the bench or as a starter if they need his shooting, and Bass and Sullinger bringing some muscle off, they look like a playoff team. Provided that a team like Cleveland doesn’t surge, they could actually get the 7 seed again next year.

      WHY THEY CAN BE BAD (WHICH OF COURSE ALSO CAN BE GOOD): If Rondo doesn’t buy they can easily trade him for expiring contracts and picks and set themselves up for the Wiggins sweepstakes. Green can stay unfulfilled potential (but still somewhat tradeable though). Wallace’s contract is big and long.

  2. blueballzny - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    I think you mean Gerald Wallace, not Gerald Henderson.

  3. rajbais - Jul 3, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    It’s not smart at all.

    Danny Ainge will go “Rick Pitino” on the fans and say “Rick Pitino ain’t walkin through that door fans.”

    Losers attract no one.

    If you get ready made players via the draft and outside your team via free agency or trade you’ll win a title.

    A mid major NCAA coach is not prepared to coach guaranteed pay NBA players after coaching unpaid, 1-year scholarship players who have to renew the scholarships annually. It is the rule.

    He will not win a title with the draft picks and NBA champions don’t usually win with the same coach that they started with from bottom.

    Look at the Heat, the Lakers with Phil, the Mavericks, etc.

    When you rebuild your first goal is to be a step away from “winning now” (ie the first rd). Then after achieving that feat you need to do what it takes to get to the 2nd rd and after that get new players and go further.

    The 2nd rd is a good 3rd year mark for a coach. Then the chances of winning a title increase further and they really do when you add more helpful players.

    Bottom line, get further and then further in the playoffs yearly.

    But with Stevens his pedigree will crush his NBA career because he was too ill prepared to be good and the rebuild will start all over again because franchise ineptitude retarded the progress of young players.

    A symbol of the ineptitude will be Stevens.

    • andyhr17 - Jul 4, 2013 at 5:46 AM

      Franchise ineptitude? I don’t know if you’re aware, but the Celtics aren’t the Bobcats or the Clippers.

      Losers attract no one? Man, sounds like someone holds a personal grudge.

      • rajbais - Jul 4, 2013 at 9:36 AM


        There was franchise ineptitude during the Chris Ford, ML Carr, and Rick Pitino years. How about the majority of years that Jim OBrien was in town. O’Brien left Rd 1 1-2 times and then the Celtics crashed.

        Pitino was a NCAA coach in Boston.

        I learn from history, but basketball fans are too stupid to do so.

        Btw, what happened to Tim Floyd, Jerry Tarkanian, Lon Kruger, Leonard Hamilton, Mike Dunlap, and Mike Montgomery??

        If you don’t study history you’re destined to repeat it or not do well because you never learned from others’ mistakes.

        Also, coaching mid-major, small school kids that are literally unpaid and have 1-year scholarships that have to be renewed annually by NCAA rule (no joke) cannot help you coach men with huge egos and guaranteed contracts.

        If Bobby Knight told Jay Leno in 2001 that he couldn’t coach pros because players make too much Stevens will fail.

        Plus, Stevens has no NBA pedigree. He’s not like a NCAA football coach like Jim Harbaugh with NFL playing and NFL Asst coaching pedigree and in 2011 Jim Harbaugh was the first ex-NCAA head coach since Butch Davis in 2002 to have a winning record in a NFL season.

        That’s a long time. Plus, the NFL is a non-guaranteed contract league. The NBA can’t say that.

        Sorry @andyhr17, but I know too much to not act stupid and to not know the ending and it’ll be ugly.

        NBA teams don’t study history and use what has always worked and that’s why they fail.

    • fredagsedb - Jul 4, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      Stevens knows the X’s and O’s of the tactics. He has shown that. But more importantly, he knows player development, which is what Boston can use. (Especially if they trade Rondo)
      Green, Bradley, Crawford, Sullinger, Olynyk are all young players that have shown a good deal of potential.

      What he can struggle with is player handling. In College the coach has more power, and his players more or less have no choice but to listen to him. That is not the case in the NBA, and he might struggle with Rondo and/or a veteran like Wallace (if he has an oversized ego problem to go with his somewhat advanced age)

      Why do you want us to look at the Heat? They had Spoelstra when they were bad, and still have him. He didn’t coach in the NBA (or America) before the Heat, and they have just won back to back titles with him. Isn’t that the total opposite of what you were trying to say?

      If issues with Rondo comes up, I’m pretty sure they will trade him and go for full rebuild, and then Stevens will have a large group of young guys with smaller contracts (and prob. ego’s) to work with, which will be a perfect situation for him.

      With that being said, I think they will keep Rondo, let him be the man, and see if he can carry the culture to keep a guy like Crawford from acting out, or get a veteran like Wallace. And if not, trade him and blow it up totally

      • rajbais - Jul 4, 2013 at 11:05 AM

        Yes, but there are other players than Rondo.

        Rondo’s ego is heavily publicized, but internally there is a lot that goes on that you don’t know.

        If I am wrong why do people get surprised about people hearing the bad side of good guys?

      • fredagsedb - Jul 4, 2013 at 11:51 AM

        True. But most of them are young guys. None of the players have leverage to get the coach fired. The only players who would have any reason to act out would be Rondo if he doesn’t agree with the coach, and Wallace as a veteran with a big contract. Rondo because he might try to get Stevens fired, or get a trade. Wallace because he knows his big contract will give him some wiggle room without them releasing him (since a trade for him would be hard to find)

        And the young players are either very new to the league and haven’t proven themselves, or like Crawford has a bad rep. So they wouldn’t get anything out of going up against the coach.

        That being said, it doesn’t mean Stevens will be a success, but it’s hard to see him getting fired without getting a fair run at it because his players riot. The only one who has the kind of star power to do that is Rondo and I don’t think Ainge will hesitate to trade him if that happens.

      • rajbais - Jul 5, 2013 at 9:55 PM

        Yes they do have leverage. If they quit on the coach the coach goes. Look at NYC, the Clippers, the Suns with Terry Porter, Scott Skiles’ teams, etc.

      • fredagsedb - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:51 PM

        Then they have to make a concerted effort to quit on the coach, which seems unlikely unless he messes it up big time. (and then prob deserves it) Otherwise if a player here and there doesn’t want to get in line, they’ll get rid of him.

      • rajbais - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        Removing someone is easy said than done. Trust me because if Phil Jackson says that it’s hard to under the current CBA it may be for Boston.

      • rajbais - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:03 PM

        Btw, Jamal Crawford told Tim Floyd to kiss his rear end when they were in Chicago together. Crawford wasn’t even able to drink then.

      • fredagsedb - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:52 PM

        How is that relevant?

      • rajbais - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Young players can look down on a coach.

        Look Demarcus Cousins and Paul Westphal and Keith Smart.

      • fredagsedb - Jul 6, 2013 at 3:29 PM

        Yes. But DeMarcus Cousins had the “Star Power” to do it. Management (bad as it was) wouldn’t get rid of him over the coach. There is nobody on the Celtics that Ainge wouldn’t get rid of right now. Even Rondo

      • rajbais - Jul 7, 2013 at 12:48 PM

        Again, the CBA might be tough for Boston to make in season trades. Plus, will the exchanged parts be better or worse for Stevens?

        Trading away someone is easy said than done. What happens afterwards?

        Bad personalities develop behind our eyes unpredictably.

        Did anyone predict Rondo would be this immature when he came out of Kentucky?

        The odds say Stevens won’t do well based on his upbringing. Money and contract lengths are powerful tools that NCAA players don’t have. That’s why Stevens was a king in college and a possible outcast in the pros. He’s too disadvantaged to be good. Trust me.

      • rajbais - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:36 PM

        You don’t need potential.

        You need a personnel selector that’s not dumb, ready made NBA players, and a coach with NBA pedigree and NBA street cred.

        Potential in the draft is why Jay Bilas, Fran Fraschilla, and Jay Williams should be fired by ESPN too.

      • fredagsedb - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:54 PM

        Tell that to the Spurs. They have developed everyone to greatness but Tim Duncan (He would have been great anywhere, but prob not as great)

        I agree you need a coach who can handle the personalities of NBA players, but lets give Stevens the benifit of the doubt and let him have a chance at it.

      • rajbais - Jul 6, 2013 at 12:10 PM


        They actually take more ready made players than you think.

        All the “potential” guys are usually acrobatic, airborne players that can’t do crap.

        If your on court tendencies show in your play you have proven that you can retain basketball instruction. They did that.

        Plus, all the foreign guys were drafted while under foreign team contracts so what the Spurs did was use the foreign teams the way Major League Baseball teams use minor league affiliates for prospects.

        Don’t forget Chicago did this with Tony Kukoc and Portland did this with Arvydas Sabonis and the Spurs have done that with Splitter and Ginobili.

      • fredagsedb - Jul 6, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        Yes. I’m aware of that. But that doesn’t explain players like Parker, Leonard, Green, Neal which they have developed. They were not ready when they got them.

        Potential is more than athleticism

      • rajbais - Jul 7, 2013 at 12:53 PM

        But the “potential” garbage seems to be only used for guys that look like they’ll be Samuel Dalembert, athletic, airborne, and acrobatic with too little of basketball pedigree to do well.

        Parker and Leonard had enough basketball pedigree and basketball instruction retention to be good students and eventually good players in the NBA.

        Why does the retention of a basketball instruction matter? Simple. Your brain is behind everything you do. It dictates your movement and your movement is based off of what you have been taught or learned. Only your parents will know because they were instructing you how to walk when you were a baby. When you do what you are required to do or actually do your brain is behind it.

        Your brain possesses the information that you need in order to do what is expected and their brains of basketball seemed to help them with that.

    • nbascreed - Jul 4, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      Unsure of why this comment got so many thumbs down. It’s true. Stevens is not prepared to be an NBA coach. Rondo will walk all over this guy and Stevens will have NO idea what levers to pull.

      • rajbais - Jul 4, 2013 at 11:03 AM

        @nbascreed Thank you! They only gave me thumbs down because they hate history. If you fail to learn history you are destined to fail.

        Actually, these people would make great NBA GMs because they don’t study history and that’s why coaches get unfairly pushed out the door and bad players come onto teams.

      • mornelithe - Jul 4, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        Because it’s not really looking at the facts. The fact is, Stevens got 6 years in his contract, you don’t give a coach you’re not fully behind a 6 year contract. Rondo has 2 years remaining. Ainge and Celtics management have chosen their future coach, and Rondo has no say in the matter. If Rondo complains, Ainge will simply say he’s the coach, deal with it.

        That’s assuming, of course, that Rondo stays, which I don’t think is the case after this signing. The team is clearly in full rebuild mode, and Rondo is the odd man out. Rondo’s a great passer/facilitator, but he’s not going to take charge of any game like a Lebron or Bryant, not even close. So, Rondo needs people to dish too ala Garnett, Pierce, Allen etc… They aren’t there anymore, and given that fact, I don’t think Rondo will be either.

      • rajbais - Jul 5, 2013 at 10:33 PM


        You can give anyone anything within limits!!!!!

        NBA players get that a lot. Look at Jerome James as a Knick 8 years ago.

        Look at Jon Koncak.

        For coaches there are no limits. Tim Floyd got a five year contract in Chicago. He was also named director of basketball operations in his title.

        Confidence and placing a bunch of eggs in one basket means nothing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        What is wrong with you?????????

        When a team is only as good its GM how can you use an acknowledgment of gambling as fact????

        You can’t. Giving someone money will not automatically mean success.

        Something that could pass or fail is not legitimate reason.

        There needs to be a legitimately good basketball reason, but right now there are more bad reason than good.

        BTW, in the Summer of 2004 Mike Krzyzewski got a $10 million per year offer from the Lakers after Phil Jackson left. Was he going to succeed Phil well or do better than Rudy Tomjanovich because of the Lakers’ commitment and cash options???

        Back then you would have made no sense if you said “$10 million per year for 5 years is why he’ll do well.”

        There were no basketball reasons and now we will never know except conclude based on the resume he had at Duke.

        Btw, you know nothing about agent vs. management wars. The agent ALWAYS wins.

        With present GMs not being as educated as Jerry West, Red Auerbach, and Pat Riley were how can you have high or 100% confidence in Ainge when he and his peers have given third chances to no-future bums like Terry Stotts, Keith Smart, and Randy Wittman.

        How can you have faith in Ainge when Joe Dumars has crashed as a GM?

        Too many of these guys are alike and like-minded, particularly in a copy-cat league. Copying other teams is done too stupidly and the copying has been attempted by bad GMs.

        If that is one of the reasons why there are more bad GMs than good ones how can you trust Danny Ainge and not believe that he fell prey to Brad Stevens’ agent in an impulse purchase particularly when Ainge hasn’t learned or built himself after a Riley, Jerry West, Gregg Popovich, or any other talent selecting great????

        Has anyone not regarded this???

        You’re only as good as your decision maker and for years the Celtics will not be.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      “Btw, what happened to Tim Floyd, Jerry Tarkanian, Lon Kruger, Leonard Hamilton, Mike Dunlap, and Mike Montgomery??”

      These dudes are NOT Brad Stevens. They had far more talent then Brad Stevens ever had at Butler. Do your homework.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:59 PM

      “If Bobby Knight told Jay Leno in 2001 that he couldn’t coach pros because players make too much Stevens will fail.”

      Because Bob knew he couldn’t/wouldn’t put up with the prima donna attitude that permeates the NBA. Brad Stevens is far smoother. And an even better communicator.

      WAKE UP!
      The NBA is going young with their coaches. Spolestra, Vogle, Kidd…and now…Stevens.
      Do. Your. Homework.

  4. adoombray - Jul 3, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    Rondo is one of the most wildly overrated players in the league. He self admits to being difficult to coach ; and while I tend to disbelieve “REPORT: ANONYMOUS SOURCES SAY” around a guy, there have been so many for so many years about him flipping out and being a jerk to his teammates… while his team was winning a championship and perenially going to the ECF and coming really close to preventing the Miami dynasty from ever happening. Just wait till he’s on a 30, MAYBE 40 win team and is at best a sacrificial lamb to the 1 or 2 seed. His assist totals are comical stat padding, he passes up wide open jumpers to boost that number. There’s a reason he wasn’t traded. People who know the NBA know he is not worth the headache or the contract. He is the point guard equivalent of Michael Beasley and is living proof that stats don’t mean everything.

    • bougin89 - Jul 5, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      “His assist totals are comical stat padding, he passes up wide open jumpers to boost that number.”


      Rondo was incredible two playoffs ago against the Heat(the last playoffs he played in). I think any pass-first PG will need good teammates to succeed. Rondo just happens to be one of the best pass-first PG’s in the game. To compare him to Michael Beasley is quite “comical”.

  5. sportsfan18 - Jul 4, 2013 at 1:34 AM

    The author is correct. But whether it’s Boston or any other pro team or high level college basketball team (or even an NFL team), no one likes losing. People become unhappy, the players, the coaches, the fans etc…

    They won’t be very good next year and worse if they get rid of Rondo. A few years from now when Boston begins to climb back up, the coach who oversaw all the losing is usually let go.

    This has happened over and over throughout the years. All teams expect to win. All teams can’t win and coaches are let go. We all know that being the coach of the year in the NBA is a joke. They are let go quickly after winning this award.

    Rebuilding is tough and it sucks the life and energy out of the players and staff, the fans and management and generally leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths…

    If they do completely tear it down, get rid of Rondo, I hope they give him a few years after the next couple of years while they’re at the bottom, but I don’t think they will. It just really doesn’t happen much anymore.

    Coach K’s record at Duke his first 3 yrs was the following:

    17 – 13
    10 – 17
    11 – 17

    Most coaches in this day and age wouldn’t have gotten a 4th season with that track record. Luckily for Coach K, this was 1981 to 1983 for him.

  6. droyal - Jul 4, 2013 at 2:43 AM

    I don’t see Rondo buying into coach Steven’s plan, and the rift will hurt the Celts until he’s traded. Trade Rondo in some deal for Iguodala and whomever else and it’s a better start than leaving the roster stale under their new promising coach.

  7. 1historian - Jul 4, 2013 at 5:29 AM

    All good points, let me make this one – Ainge has said that Rondo is not on the trading block, but what do you expect him to say when the guy can’t play right now? IMO this is just his latest move and we can expect more.

    We can also keep our fingers crossed that Rondo will grow up.

  8. onlyavoice - Jul 4, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Give Him The Heat Team & The Guy Looks Great.
    Point Being, Doc Was About To Get Fired Again In Boston.
    Without The Big Name Stars He Stinks.
    Don’t Expect Much From The Clips Either, They’re Soft.
    Doc Will Break Out His Excuse Book Once Again.
    If Ainge Is Going Young Then This Guy Will Play The Youngsters.
    Any Other NBA Coach Would Skip Them & Drill Any & Every Vet Into The Ground Trying To Win.

    • scalfor3 - Jul 4, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      Doc Wasn’t About To Get Fired And Capitalizing The First Letter Of Every Word Makes You Look Stupid.

  9. onlyavoice - Jul 4, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    He Has More Coaching Experience Than Kidd.
    Kidd, Like Doc, Will Look Better Because Of The Talent.

  10. 1historian - Jul 4, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    Ainge took a heck of a chance hiring this guy and we’ll see how it works out.

    He has made radical changes to the team in the last month or so and I think we can expect more – he is clearing cap space for next season’s FAs, the Celts will probably (?) be in the lottery next season and with Jersey’s #1 plus their own he might trade WAY up if he doesn’t get the draft spot he wants.
    The Celts have 2 #1 choices in 2014, 2015, 2016, just one in 2017 and 2 in 2018 – 9 #1 choices in the next 5 drafts is a good way to rebuild.

    IMO the Celts will be back in the playoffs in 2015.

  11. metalhead65 - Jul 4, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    come on Danny help your old buddy Larry out and send rondo to the Pacers. he would be the guy to put the Pacers on top. a pure point guard who can handle the pressure at crunch time and not be a turnover machine. make it happen guys!

  12. Kansachusetts - Jul 4, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    I’m getting tired of hearing radio, TV, and internet analysts assume that the best strategy for the Celtics is to tank. I think they misunderstand the value of fans.

    I have watched or listened to 99 percent of the Celtics games since the Big 3 era started. I watched a few in the decade before that. I was also a huge fan in the Bird and Havlicek eras. The average Boston fan knows basketball better than the average fan in any other city. The average Boston fan is not interested in seeing the Celtics tank. The fan wants to see the Celtics play Celtics (team) basketball.

    In this day and age there are many productive things I can do with my time that do not involve watching a team play to lose — and I will do them if it comes to that. It seems to me naive to think that losing viewers and ticket sales, while pursuing a strategy based on luck in the draft, is unimportant to a franchise. But our analysts don’t factor that in.

    Part 2: I agree that there are good reasons to trade Rondo: he has value and he’s too headstrong and proud. However, there are equally good reasons to keep him. Among them, he makes even role players play to their full potential. Bradley is much more effective when he’s cutting and Rondo is hitting him. Chris Wilcox became a contributor because of Rondo. The same will be true of Sullinger and Green. Jeff Green played his best when he was out of the shadow of Pierce and Garnett, but he needs a playmaker. Are we to sacrifice the potential of Bradley, Sullinger and Green so that we can gamble on tanking? If so count me and a lot of other fans out.

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