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Brad Stevens keeping it cool

10/2/2013 - Boston Celtics

NEWPORT, R.I. -- If you're anybody but Brad Stevens, your first honest-to-goodness practice session as the 36-year-old head coach of one of the most decorated franchises in sports is that moment the emotional roller coaster that has been slowly climbing the past three months since you were hired tips over the ledge and you go screaming into the formal start of your NBA journey.

But Stevens is an emotional robot. The same guy who ho-hummed his way to center court after a heart-stopping buzzer-beating win over Gonzaga back in January showed up at Salve Regina College on Tuesday for Day 1 of training camp with the Boston Celtics and bashfully admitted he didn't even get a tinge of butterflies when he stepped onto the floor and blew the whistle to huddle his squad for the first time.

Asked after his team's double-session workout if he felt those first-day jitters, Stevens said, "I hate to say this, but no. I like [practice], it's a fun part of the job for me. I enjoy it. I enjoy getting back on the court. But the only thing I'm thinking about right now is that we have practices three and four [on Wednesday] and I've got to go back and write them up."

And so, with about an hour of sunlight left on a most ravishing first day of October in one of the most immaculate spaces in the region, Stevens hurried back to his hotel room to revise the offensive plays his team will install as part of Day 2's morning workout and the defensive drills that will make up the afternoon session.

"That's all I'm thinking about," Stevens said. "That's just the way it goes. I don't know when I lost my fandom and it became more of a job, but it did at one point."

To be fair, the Celtics gave Stevens a six-year, $22 million contract to be boring and unemotional. He has been tasked with rebuilding from the ground up, a process that will take time and, to Stevens, Tuesday's double session was just another checkpoint toward reestablishing the team as a title contender.

When he was hired, Stevens pledged to be ready for this day. He spent his first weeks on the job building relationships with his players and staff, then settled in by learning all he could about his new team.

For many coaches, that first practice, the one that they'd probably have previewed no less than a million times in their minds before it arrived, would mean a sleepless night. Heck, Avery Bradley, the second-longest tenured player on the Celtics' roster, woke up before the sun (and probably his new son) on Tuesday and was jittery with nerves for the first day of hoops school.

But it probably shouldn't surprise us that there was no spike on Stevens' cardiogram. He pledged to be ready for this moment and, sure enough, he was.

As Jeff Green noted after the session, "He's still cool. He's very smart, very precise. He's a perfectionist. He works hard at his craft. We enjoy that."

Twenty-four hours before Tuesday's first session, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge still was gushing over his choice for Doc Rivers' successor. Asked about his impressions of Stevens since hiring him in early July, Ainge joked, "I'd like to give him a four-year contract extension."

"He's been great," Ainge said. "He's been easy to work with. He's the very intelligent, hardworking guy that we thought he was. He gets along with everybody. He's a great communicator.

"He's got a tough job ahead of him this year. We have a lot of good players and no superstars, other than Rajon, who won't be ready for the start of the season. Just managing the minutes with a lot of players could be a challenge for him. It's not a perfect roster and he's going to have to mix and match a lot of different things and be very creative and manage the egos."

The process isn't always going to be pretty. But Stevens has a vision -- the same one that helped him shape Butler into a two-time NCAA finalist and helped deliver him to this level. But until he achieves some of those lofty goals, everything else is just part of the process.

"I've watched Brad a lot and I knew we had the right guy when we hired him, obviously," Ainge said. "We gave him a six-year contract and, you can correct me because I haven't done any research on this, but I don't think there's been a six-year contract given to a coach in the NBA.

"There really haven't been any surprises, just confirmation. He's a great guy, great intelligence and I really like how there seems to be some cohesion with him and the players and he spends a lot of time communicating.

"In the NBA, you have to sell your product every day. These are men that you're coaching and just the fact that you've got 'Coach' on your practice gear doesn't automatically give you that respect. You have to earn it. I think Brad will do that very thing. I think he'll earn it from the players, and he has, from a lot of guys that have been around this summer."