Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has his team ahead of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals despite losing Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis for the season to injuries, but he isn’t comfortable with the overwhelming praise that has come his way.
“It’s silly,” he said, per Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. “The praise is uncomfortable, and it’s just something that these guys should be getting it all. We all have a role to play, and we all need to play that role as well as we can.”
The coach didn’t just deflect praise to his players but pointed to the efforts of president of basketball operations Danny Ainge for building a deep roster that has survived a number of setbacks.
“It’s a collaboration amongst everybody, but Danny is the one that chooses the players and he’s hit absolute home runs,” Stevens said.
Stevens took over as Boston’s head coach before the 2013-14 season and went just 25-57 in his first campaign. However, the team has made the playoffs in each of the following four years while improving its win total each time.
This was supposed to be the season the Celtics elevated themselves to the next level after losing to the Cavaliers in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals because they added Irving, Hayward and rookie Jayson Tatum to a roster already featuring talented pieces such as Al Horford.
A lesser coach would have allowed it all to crumble when Hayward was lost for the season mere minutes into the opener when he fractured his ankle and Irving was ruled out for the playoffs, but Stevens rallied Boston behind his defensive sets to overcome so many physical setbacks. As a result, the Celtics are three wins away from the NBA Finals after leading the league in defensive rating during the season, per NBA.com.
Stevens’ defensive tactics were on full display in Game 1 against Cleveland when Boston clogged James’ driving lanes and held him to a mere 5-of-16 shooting from the field with seven turnovers.
It hasn’t been all love for Stevens, though, as Forsberg noted Celtics legend Robert Parish appeared on Sirius XM NBA radio on Monday and pointed to a lack of championships.
“I think he gets a little too much praise, but I like what he’s doing,” Parish said. “They’re giving him all the love like he won three or four championships. Come on now. Win something first, with all the love he’s getting. Now granted, don’t get me wrong, he’s a solid coach, I’ll give him that. The love he’s getting from the media, you’d think the Celtics won two or three championships. You would think.”
If Boston continues the ascent Stevens has put it on in his five seasons at the helm, it won’t be too long before he can answer Parish with multiple championships.