A Clifford Ray Return to Boston Would Benefit Celtics' Young Big Men

Randolph CharlotinAnalyst IIJuly 21, 2013

Clifford Ray worked with a variety of big men, including stretch 4s, which likely will be Kelly Olynyk's game.
Clifford Ray worked with a variety of big men, including stretch 4s, which likely will be Kelly Olynyk's game.Harry How/Getty Images

New Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens wants some assistants with NBA experience on his staff. He got a good one in Ron Adams, who was recently let go by the Chicago Bulls.

Adams was head coach Tom Thibodeau’s lieutenant with the Bulls for the past three seasons. With more than 30 years of experience, Adams will be a valuable ally for Stevens as he gets a feel for handling professional players and making the transition from college to pro coaching.

Stevens’ staff might be set with Jay Larranaga and Micah Shrewsberry rounding out the group. But if there’s room for one more assistant, Clifford Ray would be an excellent addition.

The name is familiar to Boston, as Ray was on former Celtics coach Doc Rivers’ staff from 2006-07 to 2009-10. He also worked for the Orlando Magic, New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks. Last season, he was an assistant for the Sacramento Kings, which released him in June.

Ray must answer two questions before joining Boston.

First, does he have a desire to continue coaching?

Second, if he still has that fire, would he return to the Celtics after they replaced him with Roy Rogers in 2012? If Ray harbors no hard feelings, the reunion would benefit the Celtics.

Ray specializes in working with power forwards and centers. Over the years, he coached Danny Fortson, Carlos Boozer, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Troy Murphy and Erick Dampier. Last year, he worked with DeMarcus Cousins.

Arguably, he made his biggest impact with Boston, where he worked with Al Jefferson, Leon Powe, Ryan Gomes, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis. They were all young when first introduced to Ray. While most of the credit to their success belongs to the players, he had a hand in their development.

That’s why Boston should bring Ray back. The Celtics' power forwards and centers for 2013-14 could feature five players with 51 games of experience between them, with 45 of those games played by Jared Sullinger. The remaining six belong to Fab Melo.

After the veterans are rookies Kelly Olynyk, Colton Iverson and Vitor Faverani. That’s a lot of clay in need of molding.

(Note: Faverani’s deal isn’t official yet, but CBS Boston reports he reached a three-year agreement with Boston. And according to a Turkish sports web site, Iverson reportedly signed to play for Besitkas in Turkey next season.)

Ray’s influence doesn’t guarantee improvement for every player he works with. Based on early impressions, Sullinger and Olynyk would be fine even without any guidance from Ray. But what could Ray do for the trio of centers?

Of the three, Melo needs the most help. With little experience playing basketball, Melo needs extra attention. While another year in the Developmental League could help Melo, how much help would it be if he is practicing and playing against players who are smaller than him?

Maybe what’s best for Melo is banging against the likes of Iverson and Faverani in practice while getting hands-on instructions from Ray every step of the way. Melo would probably ride the pine for the most part, but Ray's tutoring would hopefully make a difference in Melo’s development, maybe to the point that he can become a contributor for the Celtics.

Ray would help Iverson and Faverani as well. Iverson’s energetic and reckless play is encouraged, but he has to learn to rein it in to stay out of foul trouble and on the court. Faverani has to adjust from playing in Spain to the NBA’s rugged, physical game.

There’s also a possibility that the Celtics could draft a center in upcoming drafts, possibly as soon as 2014 with a lottery selection. That would be another young, impressionable big in need of guidance.

With so many young big men possibly coming to Boston, having a specialist like Ray to develop them should help the Celtics bounce back from rebuilding to contending.

Questions? Comments? Send to randolphc82@comcast.net.