Brad Stevens Brings Mentality To Celtics Akin To Gregg Popovich’s


Gregg Popovich is undoubtedly the best coach in the NBA. As a five-time NBA champion and three-time NBA Coach of the Year, Popovich has established himself as one of the best ever. For the majority of his time with the Spurs, he has been with three core players, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan. All have played their entire NBA career with San Antonio and been there well over a decade. In this age of NBA basketball, that is a rarity.

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A major component of Popovich’s team-oriented system is consistency. The coach spoke to Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum about the importance of the relationships that come from having the same players year in and year out:

“Yes, we’re disciplined with what we do. But that’s not enough. Relationships with people are what it’s all about. You have to make players realize you care about them. And they have to care about each other and be interested in each other. Then they start to feel a responsibility toward each other. Then they want to do for each other.”

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, who has been in that role since 2002, has not been known to go after big stars, this year’s signing of LaMarcus Aldridge being an exception. Rather, he finds players that fit Popovich’s system through the draft, free agency and trades and fits them with mainstays Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili.

A couple recent standouts, Danny Green and Patty Mills, came to the Spurs after struggling early in their careers. Green was the 46th pick in the 2009 NBA draft and Mills went 55th that year. It’s possible both wouldn’t have lasted in the league if they didn’t make their way to San Antonio. Now they’re NBA champions.

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How does all of this relate to the Boston Celtics? In 2013 the Celtics hired head coach Brad Stevens from Butler University. In his second year with the team, he led them to the NBA playoffs in an amazing turnaround season. Boston went from 25-57 in his first year to 40-42 in his second, and put up a fight as a 7th seed against the Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Stevens was my choice as NBA Coach of the Year last season. With a roster lacking a star player, he has inspired a mindset that at Butler he called “The Butler Way.” Stevens defined this as his players “being a part of a picture bigger than themselves” in his team-oriented system. It proved to be a tremendously successful approach at Butler. Stevens went 166-49 in six seasons there and led the team to back-to-back NCAA Championship games.

This Celtics roster has bought into that same mentality. Last season, they showed the ability to play strong team basketball under Stevens. Now, they’re looking to continue to build towards the type of consistency that Popovich has been blessed with for years. With Stevens at the helm, success is becoming expected. He’s been a winner throughout his career coaching players you wouldn’t consider superstars. If his upstart Celtics continue to follow “The Butler Way” they should be making some noise come playoff time.

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