When Frank Vogel was an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics ten years ago, he admittedly never envisioned himself as a head coach of an NBA team. Then through sheer hard work and a keen aptitude for breaking down film and preparing game plans,Vogel was able to seize his opportunity as an interim head coach for the Indiana Pacers and suddenly become a bright young coach in the league leading one of the top young teams to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
Ten years ago, Brad Stevens surely didn't see himself coaching in the NBA, let alone the storied Boston Celtics. He was happy to have a paying assistant coaching job with Butler after leaving his promising gig at Eli Lilly. He too, was quickly thrust into a head coaching job at Butler and seized the opportunity and then some. Now Stevens is going to take on the endeavor of re-building the Boston Celtics into an NBA title contender.
Stevens earned the gig, much like Vogel, thanks to his meticulous game planning and use of statistical analysis to put his players in the best position to succeed at both ends of the floor. When Butler executed those game plans, they beat bigger, faster, stronger teams. Teams that may have had more talent but didn't play as smart as Butler.
Just like Frank Vogel breaks down his game plans to put his players in position to succeed, Stevens will continue doing the same thing with an organization that has always valued hoops analytics as much as Butler. It will in some ways be the great experiment of numbers and basketball coming together under the microscope in Boston.
One way this approach helps a young coach who never played in the NBA, let alone high-level college ball (both Stevens and Vogel played Division III ball), is that the goal is to put each player, regardless of the size of their ego, in position to succeed. The numbers are laid out on paper, nothing is personal. When the results and percentage begin to match, the confidence in the approach grows, player by player.
Even the criticism is easier to take because the information is there to backup the coach when a player strays from the game plan. As the players buy in, they start doing their own analysis and understand the system even better and play smarter. The system feeds itself and then it is truly of matter of focus and execution. The coach is pushing the players to maximize their talent but the machine (spitting out numbers) is holding them accountable.
With all of the players and coaches on the same page, team success is inevitable. But it still won't be easy since talent can overwhelm any game plan in the NBA. The Celtics lost a lot of talent after the season so gathering the talent needed to compete in the East again will take time, but Stevens should do a great job laying the foundation for that next generation of success in Boston.
In Pacers news, the Summer Pacers started practicing. Rookie Solomon Hill missed the first practice because he had yet to sign a contract. The Pacers took care of that detail yesterday afternoon, and Hill will be ready to play in Orlando next week.
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