Kendrick Perkins has voiced the opinion of the majority of Celtics fans. He recently said, “The Boston Celtics just keep on rolling!!! Next man up mentality. I know it’s early, but Brad Stevens gotta be the front runner for coach of the year!!!” The sentiment that Stevens deserves Coach of the Year comes up every season. Yet Brad has never been given this illustrious honor.
With a record of 20-7 with a relatively young roster and many on the injured list, the Boston Celtics are exceeding every low expectation the NBA world has predicted. This team is reminiscent of the 2017/2018 roster. That young team brought LeBron and company to Game 7 on the Eastern Conference Finals, no small feat considering the inexperienced players Brad had to work with. This could not have been accomplished without the brilliant basketball mind of Coach Stevens.
Brad did receive a nomination for Coach of the Year, but ultimately lost to Dwayne Casey, who was actually fired as Toronto’s head coach. How Stevens was overlooked left me and several thousand other Celtics fans scratching our heads. But that was then and this is now, and why now does Kendrick (and I’m sure many others) feel as though this is the year for Brad Stevens? There could be many arguments as to why, but here’s a short list of three reasons our beloved coach deserves the accolades.
It never seems to matter if the guys play extremely well or got blown out of the water, Brad’s response to the predictable question, “How do you feel after tonight’s game…” is always his predictable answer, “We never get too high on the highs or too low on the lows.” In recognizing that the season is played one game at a time, he helps his players to shift from their poor shooting night or even their stellar performance to the task at hand…the next game. In doing this, Steven creates an atmosphere of consistency. Consistency leads to wins, wins lead to championships and championships are the testament of great coaching.
He Accentuates the Positive
Brad Stevens has this uncanny ability to see his players and know exactly what abilities they have and what they can bring to the game. Having this kind of insight gives Stevens the creatively and comfort to change his lineups from night to night. It’s not unusual to see a different starting 5 in the same week. Most coaches are unwilling, perhaps scared, to change their starters for fear of letting a less experienced player be outplayed by a seasoned vet. Brad also has an amazing way of bringing out the best of each individual on his roster. He can draw up a play for anyone of the guys at any given moment. This is a talent that many coaches lack. One of the most admirable and frustrating features of Brad’s coaching is his willingness to allow his players to shoot through their troubles while on the court. He doesn’t immediately pull guys out of sticky situations. This creates basketball thinkers not just basketball players, which should be a primary goal of any coach, especially one who is to be Coach of the Year.
It’s easy to respect a humble man. There’s never a time Coach Stevens says he’s got it all figured out or he’s unbeatable. He’s often quoted saying he’s got as much to learn as his players do. anny Ainge has said many times how much he respects Brad, and places his full confidence in him to hang Banner 18 in the Garden. In addition to the Ainge, his players seem to have the most respect for him as well. That’s not always heard around the NBA about other teams and their coaches. Furthermore, when opposing players are interview after playing at the Garden, a common consensus is heard. “Fans are wild, tough team, great coach.” Respect has got to be a determining factor for naming the Coach of the Year, and when you’ve earned it from those outside your own organization, that’s no small thing.
The fact the Brad doesn’t measure his success as a coach by the awards he wins speaks highly of him. His concern for the players while on and off the court should be applauded and recognized. I hope Kendrick’s prediction comes to be. Brad deserves this honor and would love to see it happen.
Feature photo by NBC Sports