This isn’t the first time someone’s predicted — or even suggested — the Boston Celtics fire coach Brad Stevens, but as the regular-season struggles carry into April with little-to-no signs of change, is the writing on the wall for the franchise’s third longest-tenured head coach?
ESPN’s Stephen A Smith, alongside co-host Max Kellerman, discussed the troubling Celtics on First Take, Thursday morning. Smith strongly believes that Stevens’ days with the Celtics are numbered but the reasoning isn’t because Stephen A thinks Brad’s a terrible NBA head coach.
“I like the man, personally. I think he knows basketball, I don’t think his team is unprepared,” Smith said about the Celtics head coach on ESPN’s First Take. “I do believe, and this is just based on my experience as a journalist covering sports for the last 27 years, I can tell when you don’t seem to have the pulse of your team.
“When you look at Brad Stevens, who’s won 57% of his games as head coach of the Boston Celtics and has taken them to the Conference finals, on at least two occasions, three occasions, actually, here’s what we have to pay attention to; you look at players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — you know they ain’t going anywhere, these brothers can play and they’re only 22 and 23, respectively — they ain’t going anywhere, OK?”
ESPN’s Smith On Celtics Players’ Relationship with Brad Stevens: ‘The Players Are Just Not Listening’
With Tatum and Brown each under contract for the Celtics’ foreseeable future, Stevens could end up being the odd man out, if or when the All-Star tandem decides it’s time to part ways with the only head coach they’ve ever known. However, as Smith points out, there have been other contributing factors as to why the 2020-21 Celtics are not a winning team.
“Kemba Walker, obviously his health has been compromised, to some degree; there’s something there, right now,” Smith added. “You can say the same about Marcus Smart to a lesser degree but I don’t know if that’s an issue. When I look at the Boston Celtics and I look at coach Stevens, there does come a point in time where (you ask) — do they hear you? are you able to peel max potential out of them? Whatever they got inside of them, are you able to pull it out?
“There are times when you look at a coach and you say, ‘X-and-Os’ matter but are you making the right decisions during game time and stuff like that. But, I don’t question any of that with Brad Stevens. What I see is a guy that’s talking to the players and the players are just not listening — they’re just not necessarily buying in and that’s what you have to pay attention to. They’re going to do their jobs, they’re going to be professional.”
Celtics’ Desperate Times Call For Brad Stevens’ Desperate Measures?
By Smith’s estimation, the only way Stevens can save himself from eventually being ousted is to do something out of the ordinary ahead of Friday’s matchup against the Houston Rockets.
Stephen A, as an example, told a story about Los Angeles Lakers’ legendary head coach Pat Riley and the lengths he went to in order to fire up his players because the way Smith sees it; Stevens is being tuned out by his team. Therefore, it’s time for Brad to start thinking outside of the box.
“There isn’t a shortage of effort or stuff like that but I’m talking about the kind of coach, like Pat Riley, you heard the stories about Pat Riley,” Smith said. “Pat Riley once dug his head underwater in a bucket, an ice bucket, and put his head under there — everyone thought he was going to kill himself, or whatever, because of how long he stayed there (underwater). (He) damn (was) losing his breath and got his head out of there –this is what it takes — it’s the kind of adversity where you have to pull yourself up.
“That’s just one thing. There’s several coaches who have won that found a way to do things.”