New coach Stevens eases into Celtics job
ORLANDO — Brad Stevens is taking his time getting acclimated to the NBA.
On Monday, the Boston Celtics’ new head coach was an observer during his team’s game against Detroit in the NBA Summer Pro League at Amway Center. Boston won, 93-63.
“They played really hard, they played together, the ball was moving around, the players were moving. It was good,” said Stevens, the Celtics’ first choice to replace Doc Rivers, who left for the head coaching position Los Angeles Clippers.
Stevens, the 36-year-old former Butler University coach, is trying to adapt rather than change the Celtics’ system.
“If I can make their job easier by learning the communication that’s already been used, that’s one person having to change instead of 15,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m working on, and I’m just really sitting and listening right now, and it’s been great.”
Shawn Vanzant, a member of Stevens’ first Butler recruiting class in 2007, was surprised by his former coach’s move to the pros. Vanzant, a 2007 graduate of Tampa’s Wharton High School, said Stevens always displayed maturity beyond his years.
“He’s very intelligent,” Vanzant said. “When you talk to him, he definitely seems a lot older than he is.”
In 2010 and 2011, Vanzant and Butler, under Stevens’ guidance, made back-to-back trips to the NCAA national championship game. Butler was considered a mid-major program before then, but Vanzant credits Stevens’ tenure with raising the national profile of the Indianapolis school.
He’s definitely a players’ coach,” Vanzant said. “He played the game before, and he knows what you’re going through. His laid-back persona helps and keeps you mellow on the court.”
Stevens, who played Division III basketball at DePauw University, said he’ll implement his own system closer to the beginning of the Celtics’ training camp.
“When we get to work with our players, both individually and collectively, there will be more and more of my voice as we move along,” he said.
Vanzant said he and Stevens texted back and forth a few days ago, shortly after his former coach accepted the Boston job. Stevens was interested to know what his former guard was up to, while Vanzant wished him luck at the NBA level.
“I told him, ‘Congratulations, I look forward to seeing you coach,’ “ Vanzant said.