Boston’s wunderkind coach has painted a masterpiece this season – arguably his best job during his five-year Celtics career – and as such, had made an undeniable case for the Coach of the Year award.
There are several deserving candidates for the honour and you could make a legitimate argument for any of the following: Toronto’s Dwane Casey, Indiana’s Nate McMillan, Houston’s Mike D’Antoni, Portland’s Terry Stotts, Utah’s Quin Snyder and Philadelphia’s Brett Brown.
But while all those coaches have excelled in some form or another, Stevens checks off practically every box as someone with results and circumstance on his side.
Brad Stevens’ thoughts on his Coach of the Year candidacy: "Could care less. There’s 29 other great coaches, and just to be a head coach in this league is enough. … There’s no way that I would ever consider myself to be in that race." pic.twitter.com/ZyYNoBNYCF— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) March 31, 2018
Casey in particular has been a frontrunner for much of the second half of the season as the Toronto Raptors have thrived while playing in a new, more modern system. Their bench, consisting largely of young guys, has also turned into a dominant unit and as a result, Toronto are leading the Eastern Conference with a 55-21 record.
That’s impressive, no doubt. But the Celtics are now just two games behind in the standings despite having an infinitely tougher road.
The case for Stevens isn’t centred on the fact they’ve won 53 games – after all, Boston finished with that many wins last season – but based, more specifically, on the ‘how?’
Gordon Hayward, an All-Star who may be the Celtics’ best all-around player, was lost five minutes into the season. Everyone knows this, but because it happened so soon, it can be easy to forget.
As if that wasn’t enough bad injury luck, Boston have also been without a number of their most important players for various stretches – 26 games missed for Marcus Morris, 12 for Marcus Smart, 16 for Kyrie Irving, 13 for Daniel Theis, 12 for Jaylen Brown and eight for Al Horford.
That’s why there have been times this season where you could have confused the Celtics for their G League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
Yet the wins have kept coming as Stevens has wringed every last bit out of a depleted roster that returned all of four players from last season’s Eastern Conference Finals run and is filled to the brim with youth.
No matter the hand he’s dealt, Stevens continues to succeed and in a league where talented teams can often make coaches look good, there’s no doubt that in Boston the inverse is very much true.
Stevens has made his case and it’s one that can’t be ignored.
Know more about Sport360 Application