Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: Celtics’ Brad Stevens hiring ‘not a risk’
|07.08.13 at 10:26 am ET|
ESPN/ABC basketball analyst Jeff Van Gundy joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Celtics‘ offseason maneuverings.
The C’s pulled off a surprise move last week when they named Butler’s Brad Stevens their new coach.
“I think he’s a great, great basketball coach,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think there will be too big an adjustment — or too big of an adjustment basketball-wise. This guy is really, really smart. I think their players will respect his confidence, his sincerity, his reliability and his trustworthiness. He’s a quality person and coach.
“Now, the difference is, you’re going to lose some, and maybe a lot, depending on the construction of the roster. That, coupled with the length of a season, is always a challenge in the NBA when you go through a rebuilding situation. But I think his demeanor and his poise, along with his contract, will serve him well through the rebuilding situation.”
Added Van Gundy: “I honestly think that this is not a risk. People say it’s a risk. I don’t think it’s a risk for anybody. When Brad Stevens is done with the Celtics in six years, 10 years, 15 years, he can always go back and get a great, great college job. And for the Celtics, it’s not a risk because this guy’s a great person and a great basketball coach. How they do record-wise over his tenure there is going to be not based on his coaching ability. His coaching ability will be fine. It’s going to be their roster. Can they get him a good enough roster to work with and win with? If they do, they’ll win there.”
Asked if he or his brother Stan were contacted about the Celtics’ opening, Van Gundy said: “I have no idea about my brother. I know I wasn’t. Hey, listen, I have such respect for the Celtics that anybody would be interested if the Celtics call. They just have a great, obviously, history, they have great ownership, they have great management. So, anybody would be interested.”
As the Celtics head into a rebuilding period, Van Gundy warned that people need to avoid becoming impatient as the long season wears on.
“There’s very few people — teams, fan bases, organizations, coaches, players — who really have the stomach for a long rebuild,” he said. “It sounds good in theory. But Boston was tiring of rebuilding until Danny Ainge pulled off the Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett trades. No one likes losing 18 straight games. This is where I thought Doc Rivers took unnecessary criticism. That he didn’t want to go through a long rebuild? He’d already done that. He’d already gone through that purgatory time in Boston. So, that he wouldn’t want to redo it again in Boston? I completely understand.
“There’s got to be a stomach for this rebuilding. And it really starts with the media, the management, the ownership. Because they’re so used to winning, that this may be a period of mediocrity. It may be that 41-40 record last year, that may be the norm. Or maybe they get a few more wins or maybe they get a few less wins, or maybe a lot less wins. You can’t just believe that in theory. You’ve got to be able to live through the dreary nights that are coming to the Boston Garden. And accept that this is part of the NBA, that you can’t stay great forever.
“I think that’s going to be the toughest adjustment for everybody. They’re coming off such a great period of winning, where they had the ultimate competitors in Garnett and [Paul] Pierce. So, to see them go, to see them go into the Eastern Conference. The whole thing is going to be difficult. And that’s where I think Brad’s demeanor will really help him. He’ll focus on trying to get better every day, incremental improvement. And if he can do that, I think he will have fulfilled his obligation to the Celtics very, very well.”
As for the suggestion that the Celtics need to avoid even being mediocre and try to get bad for a year or two, Van Gundy said there’s a more palatable option.
“It’s what people always say, but I think the Houston Rockets have given everybody a template on how to keep your dignity and honor, trying to stay relevant, while getting great roster flexibility and come out through the rebuilding process on the other side and have a great team,” he said. “I think one of the biggest problems in the NBA right now in the regular season is teams who try to lose. It’s not good for the game. I understand why they’re doing it. I understand you don’t want to stay in the middle. ‘¦ We owe our fans the best product we can. And that means to try to compete to win.
“I think the draft lottery needs a total overhaul. Why should teams be punished that are trying to win? Why should they not have as good a chance as anyone at the top pick? Why should your incompetence as an organization or as a team, by losing give you more ability to get a great player? I don’t understand that.”