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‘You learn every day’: Brad Stevens experiment nears end of first year with Celtics 02.26.14 at 11:34 am ET
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HANDS ON HIS KNEES, gasping for air, there stood a teenaged Danny Ainge. Covered in sweat, surrounded by members of the Portland Trail Blazers, Ainge looked up to see the greatest Blazer of all. With his shaggy beard and full head of red hair, there was a smiling Bill Walton.

Brad Stevens is in his first season coaching the Celtics. (AP)

Brad Stevens is in his first season coaching the Celtics. (AP)

“I’ve known Danny since I moved to Oregon 40 years ago,” said Walton. “He was just in high school in Eugene when we got there. Danny would come up and play with us when he was in high school, and he would do just fine. In fact, he was incredibly fun to play with.”

The young Ainge, still sharpening his teeth as a three-sport All-American at North Eugene High School, would impress his NBA teammates with a strong handle and perfect jumper. The piece of his game that most impressed these professional basketball players was one that still cannot be found on a stat sheet. Ainge’s intelligence put him on another level as a basketball player.

“Danny Ainge is brilliant,” said Walton. “Even at a young age, he was very motivated, dedicated and committed. He’€™s always been a visionary.”

Ainge has always embraced different ideas. Conventional wisdom is not a phrase you hear the 54-year-old utter to defend his thought process. Just as Ainge was dedicated to the idea of playing professional basketball, he’s now applied his drive to his role as a president of basketball operations for the Celtics. And, depending on who is speaking, his latest big idea may be his greatest.

THE BOSTON CELTICS are spitting in the face of history. Luring Brad Stevens away from Butler and flying him first-class to Boston is a daring move even for a team with a deep history of bold moves. The Celtics, after all, hired the first African-American head coach in the NBA. Amidst all sorts of race issues in the United States, this franchise started the first entirely black starting five. The team, led by the undaunted Red Auerbach, was never hesitant. The Celtics thought differently, courageously, unafraid — in 1950, one year before Oliver Brown and friends began their battle against the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas — the Celtics used a second-round pick on Chuck Cooper, the first black player to be drafted by an NBA team and the second to appear in a game (one day after Washington Capitols forward Earl Lloyd). Trendsetting rarely has surfaced as an issue at 151 Merrimac Street. Yet with Ainge’s hiring of Stevens, the fabled Celtics franchise is following a trend with an extremely high failure rate. College coaches from the past two decades have not succeeded in the NBA. But here are the Celtics, hiring a 37-year-old coach who never played a second of pro basketball, reintroducing the league to a rather old concept. Not that Stevens will fail, but that the Celtics — led by Ainge — will reset the trend. The rest of the league, pawns outplayed by a dominating queen, will see the Celtics succeed with Stevens.

“Brad is smart, he has great integrity, his teams execute and play hard, and he’s a great communicator,” said Ainge. “Experience as a player can help as a coach, but it’s not mandatory. Experience as a coach in college can make a big difference as well. Coach Stevens has proven he’s a great coach. Coaching in the NBA is different, I understand, but in terms of coaching experience, there have been a lot of guys who have become really good coaches that weren’t NBA players.”

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Read More: Bill Walton, Brad Stevens, Charles Barkley, Danny Ainge
NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Duke G Nolan Smith 06.17.11 at 11:38 am ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Nolan Smith showed substantial improvement during his four years at Duke. (AP)

Nolan Smith

Position: Guard

School: Duke

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 185 pounds

Stats: 20.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.5 rpg

What he brings: Smith’s best attribute is his basketball IQ, that intangible quality so essential for NBA guards which combines court-vision, decision-making and maturity. He’s a solid passer with good body control, which lets him fire off passes from multiple angles and body positions, similar to Rajon Rondo. Smith is great off the pick-and-roll, has good lateral agility and can fake out defenders in isolation. He’s a confident shooter who can slash through the lanes or step back for the jumper. Also of note: His scoring, rebounding and passing numbers all have gone up each season with Duke.

Where the Celtics could get him: First or second round

What they’re saying: “We haven’t had a player who has done what Nolan has done in my 31 years here.” — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

Notes: Smith became the first Duke player ever to finish with 1,500 points (1,911) after scoring fewer than 500 in his first two years. He was named Fox Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NBC Sports National Player of the Year. His father, the late Derek Smith, was a solid NBA player before injuries set in, and Derek played briefly for the Celtics at the end of his career.

Video:

Read More: 2011 NBA Draft, Duke, Mike Krzyzewski, Nolan Smith
Irish Coffee: Celtics failing first quarter 03.24.11 at 2:30 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

The Celtics are 4-5 since March 9, and in seven of those games they’ve trailed at the end of the first quarter. As Celtics Hub pointed out in a nice breakdown, the C’s have averaged 18.8 points in the first quarter during that stretch – 5.4 fewer than their season average of 24.2.

Playing from behind is never a good thing. After all, the Celtics are 34-8 after winning the first quarter and 16-12 after losing it. That’s absolutely significant. So, what’s the problem?

Considering the Big Four plays the large majority of the first-quarter minutes, this is on them. Are Rajon Rondo‘s struggles at fault? Should Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — the team’s top two scorers — be getting more touches in the first 12 minutes? Yes, yes and yes.

If I had 10,000 hours to dedicate to this particular blog, I’d calculate the average first-quarter field-goal attempts, points and assists for Rondo, Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett. But I don’t. So, the most recent quarter-by-quarter breakdown by 82games.com — from the 2008-09 season — will have to do. And that’s not a bad year to pick, considering the Big Four had one season under their belt together and were coming off an NBA title run.

The Big Four averaged 20.9 points on 16.5 field-goal attempts and 5.2 assists as a group in the first quarter during that 2008-09 season, according to 82games.com. Over the last nine games, they’ve produced 12.4 points on 12.9 field-goal attempts and 4.3 assists in the opening 12 minutes. Something’s not clicking. That’s 8.5 fewer points, and considering the Celtics have lost their last five games by an average of 7.2 points — there’s your difference.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Mike Krzyzewski, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Duke shipping back to Boston 03.25.09 at 5:11 pm ET
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Mike Krzyzewski remembers the last time his Duke Blue Devils were in Boston.

And he’d rather not. It was, of course, not at the Garden but rather a few miles up Commonwealth at Conte Forum playing Boston College.

It was Feb. 15 and his team blew a five-point halftime lead and lost to the Eagles, 80-74. It was the second straight loss, coming just four days after getting humiliated by rival North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 101-87.

After that game, Gerald Henderson replaced Greg Paulus as starting point guard and the Dukies have won eight of nine, including the ACC Tournament championship.

“The only reason that was different is that’s the last time we really played poorly,” Krzyzewski said on Wednesday. “But Boston College had a lot to do with that. But to me there’s no significance — actually, we didn’t play in Boston. And — I don’t think there’s any significance.

“I think as a coach you have to do what you think is needed to help our team. And when we got beat by Boston College, it wasn’t just that game, it was the six games that we had just played. And we won two of them. And one of them we had to come back from being 16 or 18 points down to win in overtime. So basically we’re 1 and 5. We were actually 2 and 4, but 1 and 5 in my mind in those six games.”

So to Coach K, even when the team is sometimes winning, they’re losses in his mind. And maybe that’s what keeps Duke sharp.

“How long are you going to keep doing what you’re doing?” he asked rhetorically. “And maybe we can go 1 and 5 again for the next few games. So we needed to do something different. And thank goodness that Elliot had been practicing so hard that he was able to pressure the ball and thank goodness we had a guy like Jon who could lead the team. And then all of a sudden — then those decisions work out a lot better.”

Read More: Coach K, Duke, March Madness, Mike Krzyzewski
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