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Celtics Circuit: Is Brad Stevens the Right Man for the Job?

Can Brad Stevens develop the Boston Celtics into a title contender again?

Can Brad Stevens develop the Boston Celtics into a title contender again?

There were thirteen coaching changes in the NBA this off-season and the biggest surprise was when the Boston Celtics hired Brad Stevens.

After Doc Rivers was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2014 unprotected first-round pick, the speculation increased that the Celtics would bring in a young coach because they were looking to rebuild with a youthful core of players. This became true after the Celtics traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to their Atlantic Division rival, the Brooklyn Nets. Many members of the media who cover the team thought that Danny Ainge would pick Jay Larranaga. Larranaga spent last season as an assistant coach with the Celtics and he was named as the lead man of the Celtics’ Summer League entry in Orlando. He also reached the playoffs in both seasons as the coach with Erie of the D-League and he was the son of the University of Miami (FL) head coach Jim Larranaga.

Ainge made a bold move instead as he secretly recruited Stevens to leave a comforting situation at Butler University to join the uncertain environment with the Celtics. Stevens was treated like a king at Butler as he helped bring the mid-major Bulldogs to consecutive national championships in 2010 and 2011. Butler lost to Duke in 2010 when current Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward nearly hit a half-court buzzer-beater and UConn in 2011. The recent failure of college coaches transitioning to the professionals ranks have people questioning Ainge’s move. College coaches have to adjust to the 24-second shot clock and players are making millions of dollars.  Stevens is also 36-years-old and he looks more like an accountant than a coach.

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Big East Basketball Then & Now

A young Lou Carnesecca coaching Chris Mullin at St. Johns.

In 1985, The Big East conference dominated the national rankings and the NCAA tournament, sending 3 teams to the final four (Georgetown, Villanova, and St. Johns) with two of those teams vying for the national championship.

Georgetown and Villanova played one of the greatest finals games in history and to this day this game is considered one of the biggest upsets in college basketball.  A game in which a heavily favored Georgetown team, coached by John Thompson, and lead by a dominant Patrick Ewing lost to underdog Villanova, a team coached by Rollie Massimino and featured Ed Pinckney winning the MVP as Villanova won the tournament in stunning fashion by a margin of two points.

The Big East was special that year for the amazing amount of talent that was in the conference combined with a crop of energetic coaches, in the prime or in the early years of their respective careers, matching wits in what was at the time the best college basketball conference.

Three time Big East player of the year Chris Mullin played on that St. John’s team coached by Lou Carnesecca (remember those sweaters), A young Gary Williams was coaching a solid BC team featuring Michael Adams in the backcourt, and Syracuse had a great team that year featuring Dwayne “Pearl” Washington and Rony Seikaly coached by one of the greatest basketball coaches in history, Jim Boeheim.  These players are now legends, many of whom went on to NBA careers.  It was their journey through the Big East conference, the elite conference in the nation in 1984 – 1985, that helped make them the great players they would become.

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