BOSTON (CBS) — In just his second season on the bench, Brad Stevens led the Boston Celtics to 40 wins and a postseason berth.
The young coach is turning heads around the league with his calm demeanor and uncanny ability to draw up the perfect play out of timeouts in nearly every important situation at the end of games. It’s earned him plenty of respect, and an Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award for April.
Celtics center Tyler Zeller joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich on Friday, as the C’s prepare for their playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and said it didn’t take very long for players to realize just how special of a head coach Stevens is.
“First of all he’s a great basketball mind. When he draws up a play you know it’s going to work because he’s done it so many times,” said Zeller. “You gain a lot of respect that way, but then just the way he carries himself, the way practices go, the way we know everything he says is going to work. When you have that kind of basketball mind and knowledge we really stand behind him, because we know everything he says is going to work.
“He’s even more prepared than we are a lot of times,” said Zeller. “He’ll give us all the information we need for the game, but he also keeps it simple. He gives us the most important information, most important facts on players. At the end of the game, he knows what defense they’re going to run or if they’ll switch.”
Zeller said to look no further than Boston’s improbable 117-116 win over the Toronto Raptors on April 4.
“He drew up a play, it didn’t work, but with four seconds left we threw it in and he called another timeout. Immediately, he had the board and already had another play ready to go,” said Zeller. “That’s when Isaiah [Thomas] had the ball and Marcus Smart put it in the end. It’s unbelievable how many plays he has in his mind ready to go.”
The Celtics had 41 different players on their roster throughout the season, making it difficult for them to experience any continuity on the floor. But once the roster moves settled down in February, that’s when the Celtics really took off.
“It was tough, and part of the reason we had so many ups and downs,” Zeller said of Boston’s ever-changing roster. “We had a new team, we’d take a couple of weeks to get used to them, and then we’d get somebody else. That was the main reason at the end of the year, we’ve been able to kind of settle in. We’ve had the same team for about two months now and it’s been great for us to solidify that team and play together.”
Boston comes in with very little playoff experience, but Zeller hopes this is just the first of many appearances the C’s can put on their their postseason resume.
“Obviously we all want playoff experience, and in the next few years we hope to be back in the playoffs, maybe at a higher seed. This year it’s great for us because Cleveland is such a talented team, and going into every night we’ll just play hard and see where we are at the end of games,” he said. “Hopefully we can give them fits with our depth, push the ball and run with it.”