What is the secret of success for Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics?

Brad Stevens (Photo: Keith Allison)

Forget Kyrie Irving. Never mind Al Horford. Disregard Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum too. The star of the show for the Boston Celtics is coach Brad Stevens.

In four short years he has helped take a struggling franchise back into the play-offs and back into contention, with many tipping them to create another dynasty.

Stevens, still just 41, was already making waves in the NCAA before the Celtics took a punt on him, breaking the record for most wins by a coach in his first three years in 2010.

At 33 he became the second-youngest head coach to make a Championship game, losing to Duke with Butler. Now he’s drawing praise from the likes of LeBron James.

But what’s the secret of his success? According to Celtics TV analyst and cult hero Brian Scalabrine, AKA the White Mamba, it all comes down to drawing up a play for Daniel Theis.

Scalabrine said: “Brad gets the most out of his players. He puts players in a position to fail. I’m in every huddle and he’s really inclusive.

“Like, Daniel Theis passed up a shot one time. He’s a 25-year-old rookie from Germany. Passes up a shot.

“Brad goes through it in the huddle and says: ‘Come on I need you to shoot that’, then draws up a play for Theis to shoot a three coming out of the time-out.

“I mean, Kyrie’s there, Al Horford’s there. He’s drawing up a play for Daniel Theis! To give him the confidence. So he does a good job of that.

“The other thing he does, is he always works in two or three-player combinations. I’ve never seen that in all my years as a player.

“If I play these two or three players that coach is going to have a hard time adjusting to what I do based on that player’s skill set. So that’s also really impressive.

“I think those two areas, and they kind of relate, are really special in terms of his coaching ability.”

Fans in the UK will be able to see Stevens and the Celtics in action when they face off against the Philadelphia 76ers at NBA London on January 11.

It’s a rivalry that took off during the 1980s when two of the greatest teams of all-time, Larry Bird’s Celtics and Dr J’s Sixers fought, battled and scrapped (literally) through some of the toughest play-off series in history.

These days both teams are young and have bags of potential, with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons the future of the Sixers just as Tatum and Brown are for Boston.

Scalabrine said: “Every time Philly come to town they show old videos of Larry Bird and Dr J fighting. And the crowd goes absolutely nuts.

“It is interesting that they are young and up-and-coming franchise and so are we, and how this goes forward is going to be really cool. I do believe the rivalry is back as of right now.”

Back in his day, Scalabrine, who also played for the Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets before a spell as assistant coach to Mark Jackson at Golden State, was an early stretch four.

But he’s brutally honest about how he would match up in today’s game, saying: “It would be great to play on this Celtics team.

“But I’m not one of these has-been players who says like: ‘Oh I was so good’. I think the game has evolved and it has evolved past me.

“I don’t know if I’m skilled enough to play in this team. I was a stretch four before everyone did it. I was unique. It was like: ‘Ah I’ll put in Scalabrine and he can stretch the floor.’

“But if everyone’s doing it I don’t think I have a niche in today’s NBA.

“If you try to compare, the skill level is at an all-time high right now. No question about it. You look at the point guard play, the big men play. What they can do on the perimeter, putting the ball on the floor.

“But the toughness in the 90s, it was HARD to be in the NBA. You had to have such mental toughness.

“Now we have sleep coaches, and travel coaches and hot tubs and all kinds of special things that make players really good, and you should have those kind of things, but in the 90s man they were really grinding it out.

“It would be interesting to see a group put back into that day and age and see how they would perform. I know that teams then, if they played now, they would lose.

“But I don’t know if teams now, if they went back then, if they would win. They are more skilled, but it was tough. If you go watch a Knicks Bulls series, how much hand-checking, and hard fouling there was, it was mental toughness to get through those series.”

Scalabrine also reckons one of the biggest changes has been the advent of social media, and while it can be a minefield for some pros, he believes the positives outweigh the negatives.

He said: “Players are much closer to the fans now. Players on social media, they are really into that. Like, I don’t know how much Charles Oakley would have been on Twitter. But I think players want to know what fans saying about them. They are more in touch with fans than they were back then.”

Time to get following some Boston and Philly accounts people.

Who wins? Tweet your prediction using #NBASUNDAYS ‘NBA Sundays presented by NBA 2K18’ on BT Sport – a live NBA game every Sunday at 8:30pm. This week on December 10th the Detroit Pistons will host the Boston Celtics on BT Sport 1.

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