After last year's NBA Bubble, where the Celtics lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, the expectations were high for Boston. Unfortunately for them, they never found their stride and had a sub-par season. With injury struggles and inconsistency, weeks ago there was speculation that Celtics Head Coach, Brad Stevens, would end his eight-year tenure in Boston and head back home to coach Indiana University. Now, this was all just a rumor, but the stars aligned for Stevens to make the move back to college. Stevens almost immediately shut the doors on that rumor. His focus remained with the team. The Celtics limped into the playoffs as the seven-seed, after going 36-36 in the regular season. Flash forward to today, less than 24 hours from getting bounced by the Brooklyn Nets, the most surprising move came out of the thin air.
Now I am no Celtics fan, but I am still shocked. It wasn't a surprise regarding Danny Ainge. He has been quite the impressive President, but he has been contemplating leaving the job for quite some time. Brad Stevens moving from his head coaching role to leading the Celtics basketball operations, was not expected. He has been a very successful coach, who the players enjoy and respect, plus he has guided the Celtics to a 354-282 record in his tenure. Now, his focus shifts from leading the floorplans to leading the search for the Celtics‘ new head coach. Who does he pick as his successor?
Steve Clifford could be an intriguing option. Since joining the Magic, he has done nothing but improves the team. He has a quality resume and has brought both Charlotte and Orlando to the playoffs, with far less talent than the Celtics already possess. He is a vocal coach, who has experience mentoring young and raw talent. Then there's Jason Kidd. Upon his retirement, he stepped in as the Brooklyn Nets HC before heading to the Milwaukee Bucks until 2018. Kidd has spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning a championship last season. He has experience being surrounded by talent, but his record doesn't support his case (183-190). The journeyman assistant and former Atlanta Hawks head coach, Llyod Pierce, a defensive-minded coach, could also be a valid option for Boston. The Atlanta Hawks parted ways with Pierce earlier this season, which causes some skepticism, but you never know. A name I wouldn't sleep on is Brett Brown. He's Boston University Alumni and former head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. Now the ironic part is that Brown was fired by the 76ers after being swept out of the first round by the Celtics in last year's playoffs. He was the lead guy in "trusting the process", and he built back the 76ers to where they are today. He's from the northeast and has Boston ties, plus a resume backed by 4 championships with the Spurs while he was an assistant.
Now, what about reunions? One name that is definitely intriguing is none other than Rick Pitino. Now is this likely? Probably not, but what a character arch that would be. Pitino just led Iona to the NCAA Tournament in 2021 after winning the MAAC conference in his first season with the Gaels. A young Pitino was supposed to save the Celtics but it was an utter failure and a bad experiment to say the least. He went just 102-146 in three-and-a-half seasons as the Celtics head coach, general manager, and president. That was just a mere roadblock on his career success, because he was a fine coach at Providence College and the New York Knicks, and dominated college hoops yet again at Lousiville.
Photo: Boston Celtics Archives
My sleeper? Well...
Definitely a pipedream, but the trash-talking king leading his former team back to the promised land would make for one helluva movie. I am all for Kevin Garnett to be back in the league.
Whoever fills Steven's shoes will have lofty expectations. This may be one of the most attractive positions to come available in quite some time. With young superstars in Tatum and Brown, solid contributors in Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart, plus a healthy mix of youth and vets, all eyes will be on who gets the job and how they take this team to the next level.