BOSTON (CBS) — It seems like no matter what he does with his lineups or rotations or game plans, everything is coming up roses for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
The Celtics, despite losing a pair of all-stars during the regular season, are up 1-0 on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Their success in the playoffs and throughout the postseason has earned Stevens adoration from just about everywhere, which will rocket into a different stratosphere if he can get the Celtics to the NBA Finals without the services of Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward.
But all of the praise is making the head coach a little uneasy. In typical fashion, Stevens said it should be redirected elsewhere.
“It’s silly. The praise is uncomfortable,” Stevens told reporters on Monday. “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.”
Stevens has never been one for the spotlight, and it’s not a bad call to pass along all that glory to the guys on the floor. His young Celtics just held the Cavs to 83 points in their Game 1 victory, limiting LeBron James to just 15 points on some pretty remarkable defense. While Stevens drew up the game plan, it was the likes of Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford making LeBron and the Cavs look like a rec league team on Sunday.
And in the aftermath of Hayward’s opening night injury, the Celtics came together and won 55 games during the regular season, touting one of the league’s best defensive units. The players certainly deserve their share of love, which occasionally gets lost in all of that admiration for Stevens. But you can’t undersell what Boston’s boy wonder does for his players. He puts his young guys in positions where they’ll succeed, and is a giant part of why Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are so confident when they take the floor. He keeps them hungry, saying that the Celtics have to play better in Game 2 on Tuesday — better than they played in their 25-point victory in Game 1.
Without Stevens, who knows where Boston’s rebuild would be at the moment. Chances are they would not be in the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight season.
It’s just too bad the players don’t vote for Coach of the Year. Maybe then Stevens would get a vote or two.