Commentary

Brad Stevens already digging in

New Celtics coach wastes no time getting to know his players, ways of NBA

Updated: July 8, 2013, 9:13 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

ORLANDO -- New Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens remembers watching his wife, Tracy, study for the bar exam upon her completion of law school. Now, as Stevens graduates from college to the NBA, it's his turn to study up.

"For two months, [she studied] like it was going out of style," Stevens recalled on Sunday from the Orlando Summer League, where he watched Boston's entry fall to the host Magic on the first day of play. "My stuff's a lot more interesting than that. It probably will be a similar summer to what she had."

[+] EnlargeBrad Stevens
AP Photo/Josh ReynoldsAfter a whirlwind four days to start his tenure as Celtics coach, Brad Stevens said he's really enjoying the transition to his new job.

After four whirlwind days since signing a six-year, $22 million contract to become the 17th head coach of the Celtics, Stevens noted he's slept in four different beds in four different cities. Sunday brought a tiny bit of normalcy, at least for a typical NBA coach, as Stevens joined Boston's front office staff (president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, assistant general manager Mike Zarren and director of player personnel Austin Ainge) courtside to observe the start of the six-day tournament.

For Stevens, this is the start of a three-month crash course aimed at ensuring he's as prepared as possible to lead the Celtics when training camp opens for the 2013-14 season in late September.

"I think a lot of coaches are probably down here evaluating the players and I'm down here getting a better feel for not only the players, but the game," said Stevens, who later added, "There's a lot of studying to do. I'm passing on any social activities to just go back to my room and watch and continue to learn."

Before Stevens was formally introduced as Boston's coach at a morning press conference on Friday at the team's training center in Waltham, his wife noted how Stevens dove into some film study -- joking it produced his biggest smile of the week -- while trying to get a jump on learning about the team he's being asked to guide through an uncertain rebuilding process.

After honoring a longstanding commitment back home in Indiana on Saturday -- and reveling in Butler's decision to hire his former assistant Brandon Miller to take over his old job -- Stevens flew to Orlando to meet members of the summer squad, as well as two of the coaching holdovers from Rivers' staff (Jay Larranaga and Jamie Young).

"I'm really just soaking this all in," Stevens said. "I met some of those guys for the first time this morning at breakfast. I went out with the staff to breakfast because I like to go out to breakfast with people and talk ball. That was right up my alley."

To Stevens, this is the important first step in what he hopes is constructing a winner with the Celtics franchise the way he built up Butler. He's stressed his desire to foster relationships with his staff and players, which means that, even after summer league, he'll be spending time in more cities and more beds while trying to sync up with Boston's returning veterans to learn more about them.

If it all sounds a bit overwhelming, particularly for a 36-year-old first-time NBA coach, it probably would be to most. Where do you even start looking at film? How do you fill out a staff when you don't even know your own weaknesses quite yet?

Fortunately, Stevens is as cool and calm off the court as he is on the sidelines. He's talked at length in his initial meetings with the media about being process-oriented and how he is enjoying this initial phase of NBA immersion.

"I think this is what you guys will find out about me as you're around me more, I think I'm pretty process-oriented," Stevens said. "I'm really as enthralled about the learning as I am about necessarily getting there. I'm not as worried about, 'When will I get there?' I'm really enjoying just the talk. I'm really enjoying the learning, I'm really enjoying the transition.

"And I think that's the way I've got to do it because it's the right way, looking forward, to move. I've always told our teams in the past, we have to detach emotionally from the results in a lot of ways, and I've tried to do that. It's harder to do than it is to say. This is just part of the learning process for me. And it really is invigorating."

Detaching from the results might be particularly important for the upcoming season. While Celtics second-year forward Jared Sullinger cringed Sunday at the idea of tanking or rebuilding, it would be fair to say that next season has a very good chance to be a transition year for Boston -- one that could see some bumps in the road.

That, of course, is part of the process. Fortunately for Stevens -- unlike his wife Tracy's exam -- the bar should be pretty low as far as expectations in Boston. While fans hope the team can accelerate through the rebuilding process, there are no guarantees along the way.

But wins and losses are a concern for another day. For now, Stevens needs to fill out his staff ("Getting the right people on the bus around me will be a critical part of this," he said) and immerse himself in his personnel.

"One of the things that [the players will] know, I'll have a good pulse on what they do well by the time we get started," he said. "That's a priority for me, so that we can then come up with the right plan of attack. And I think that's the appropriate way to go about that. And there's a lot of individual and collective studying you have to do to get that right."

Maybe it would be easier to study for the bar.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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