Biggest Reasons Boston Celtics Are Better off with Brad Stevens over Doc Rivers
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In Brad Stevens, the Boston Celtics have a wild card. He is far less of a sure-thing than former head coach Doc Rivers, but is overall a better choice right now.
When Celtics president Danny Ainge released news of the hire this past Independence Day, it turned a lot of heads.
Many had to put down their hot dogs, climb out of the pool or pause Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum's world-saving mission to find out if Brad Stevens was indeed that young-looking guy who took a school they'd never heard of to two NCAA championship games.
At first, it was equally surprising when news officially broke that Doc Rivers was the new Los Angeles Clippers head coach. However, that saga went on for some time before a move was finally made.
Now, Boston has a new leader for the first time since 2004. The team may not be successful next season, but Stevens will be judged on so much more than that in year one.
Stevens Wants to Be in Boston
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No matter how many times blame gets passed or slung back and forth, if Doc Rivers had wanted to be in Boston anymore, he would be.
Quite simply, there was no one forcing him out. He took some time for himself and his family and realized what he wanted out of the next few years wasn't going to be found in Celtics green. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that on a professional or personal level, Rivers made the choice to move on.
Brad Stevens is a different animal entirely. The new head coach, 15 years Rivers' junior, is grateful for the opportunity to just be at the NBA level. He views Boston as a gift, while Doc clearly saw the upcoming season as a chore.
This isn't to say Doc never fully enjoyed coaching the Celtics. They are simply at different points in their careers and lives. To illustrate that, Stevens has moved his entire family to a home in Massachusetts. Even though he coached in Boston for nine years, Rivers still maintained his official address in Florida.
Stevens Is Willing and Able to Coach Young Players
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One of the downsides of being an NBA coach for 13-plus seasons is a growing aversion to new ideas, games and players.
Generation gaps can be a difficult thing to cross, particularly in a sport like basketball, where so much praise is heaped onto individual players.
Doc Rivers was occasionally knocked for not giving his youth enough real time to improve and grow as players. Last season's roster featured only three players who could be considered home-grown from Rivers' time: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. Still, none of those three played more than 50 games. Bradley saw 28.7 minutes a night, while Sullinger played 19.8 on average.
Those numbers, along with those of Kelly Olynyk, Vitor Faverani, MarShon Brooks and probably Phil Pressey, are going to go way up this coming year and beyond. Where Rivers may have been stubborn in using mediocre veterans to try and win now, Stevens has a better grasp on young players and will hopefully utilize them better and give them a chance to grow.
He has spent the last decade-plus coaching players of a similar age to those Celtics youngsters. That experience should help him immediately.
Open-Minded to New Basketball Ideas
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A lot can be made about Brad Stevens and his ideas on new basketball analytics and advanced statistics.
However, recently there were a few stories about how Stevens is much more than that. According to the Boston Herald, the new Boston Celtics head coach does rely heavily on the eye test as well.
What this comes out to mean is that Stevens is open-minded. He does embrace the increasingly valuable analytics, as illustrated by bringing stat-man Drew Cannon on board from Butler to Boston. However, Stevens isn't rejecting old-school thought about the game.
His youth, 36 years old, allows him to be in a unique position of blending the two avenues of thought. He has been around the game long enough that his entire view isn't a stat-book, but he is young enough to realize and have experienced that there is, indeed, something to these new ideas.
Doc Rivers learned to think one way over 13-plus years as an NBA head coach and another 13 as a player. Stevens can be more accepting of both worlds, which better suits the Celtics needs right now.
Stevens Comes at a Discount
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In the end, moving from Rivers to Stevens did a lot more for the Boston Celtics than just hiring a new head coach.
The move saved them a fair amount of money and garnered another first-round draft pick in 2015.
Rivers was making a steep $7 million a year. He signed a five-year extension with the club back in 2011 worth $35 million. Two years and $14 million were spent by this summer, but another $21 million was on the table for Rivers.
After sending that salary responsibility to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics made a move to sign Stevens for six years and $22 million. The move will save them around $3.4 million per year, while having a coach locked up for an extra three seasons if he works out.
For what the Celtics were trying to do this past offseason, paying Rivers that much money seemed to be a stretch. Stevens' contract is much more reasonable for the amount of power you want that position wielding.
Stevens Has a Better Grasp on the College Game
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The Boston Celtics are changing. This is something every winning franchise must do at some point.
As much as money, weather and proximity can help a franchise maintain success through free agency, eventually that team will rely on the college ranks to draft a player capable of occupying an important role.
The Miami Heat have won back-to-back championships, and most of that credit will go to the acquisitions of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Shane Battier. However, without drafting Dwyane Wade, none of that happens. Miami draftees Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem all played major roles in those wins as well.
Doc Rivers didn't have the greatest connection with the college game. He started his coaching career in the NBA, where he had finished his playing career just a few years earlier.
Stevens has been coaching college basketball in some capacity since 2001. He knows the game, players and coaches very well and can use that to aid Danny Ainge with upcoming drafts and young free-agent signings.
Stevens will also relate better to players who were recently a part of that college atmosphere and are making the difficult transition to the NBA. That can only be beneficial to Boston's youth and all those upcoming draft picks Ainge has stockpiled.
Doc Had Reached Media Saturation
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It is a good thing to have Doc Rivers as head coach of one's basketball team. He seems to have improved with the years of experience from a coaching standpoint, and you won't find a better person at managing both personalities in his locker room and the media when in front of a microphone and camera.
Rivers is an incredibly charismatic and well-spoken person. His smile is somewhat mesmerizing once you see it enough times. Because of all this, the media can become enamored with him. Unfortunately, this can reach a saturation point where one becomes a pariah when criticizing his coaching abilities.
The media is an entity built on holding a mirror to society. In basketball terms, that means an honest description of how a player or coach is performing. With the Boston and, occasionally, national press, so enamored with Rivers, there was a lack of accountability starting to rear its head.
There is nothing wrong with the way Rivers acts or just is as a person. In fact, when dealing with the likes of Bill Belichick or Gregg Popovich on a regular basis, coaches like Rivers are a breath of fresh air. But, after a while, that air can become polluted with bias.
Brad Stevens may wind up being just as friendly and forthcoming with the media as Rivers was, but he'll most certainly be held to a different standard at the outset.
Boston fell in love too much with Doc for a while. He could do no wrong. It is just human nature.