Believe it or not there are some similarities to coaching an NBA team and being a father. At least one head coach thinks so. Recently I was able to chat with Boston Celtics head coach, Brad Stevens about fatherhood. We also talked about what the transition was like from coaching at Butler University to the pro level with the Celtics.
I started becoming a fan of Coach Stevens during the NCAA March Madness Tournament. During his time at Butler he led his team to four league regular season championships, three league tournament titles and six trips to postseason tournament play. He has the top two single season win totals in Butler and Horizon League history, and he became the only coach in school history to lead a team to the NCAA Division I national championship game which he did twice.
In the NBA, Brad coached the Celtics to their second consecutive playoff appearance under his tenure as the fifth seed in the 2016 NBA Playoffs finishing the season with a 48–34 record.
Brad and his wife, Tracy, have two children, son Brady and daughter Kinsley.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your job as the head coach of the Boston Celtics. Before that you coached at the collegiate level at Butler University. What was the transition like from college to the NBA?
Brad Stevens: It has been a really challenging transition for a lot of ways because it is a much different game with the eighty-two game schedule and some of the rule nuances from the college game. There are a lot of differences. You have to learn on the fly and try to catch up with speed as much as possible.
Anytime you spend thirteen years in one setting like I did you get to know both the ins and outs of that setting and the college game really well. You know when to fix things. You know what you are looking for in the players you bring in. You kind of know the likelihood of growth with each guy that you bring in. The biggest difference probably between the two is just knowing when you are recruiting unless you get really lucky and you have a guy that leaves early because he is such a good player. You are going to have those guys for four years. There is going to be a relationship built prior to that for a year or two in recruiting. You really get know them by the time you are coaching them.
By the time you are done with them the fifth or sixth year there is a real relationship established. You have a great understanding of what makes each other tick. In the pros it is a little bit different. You get people that move to your team on a Wednesday and you have to play them on Thursday. You have to adjust on the fly a little bit more. It is a heckuva challenge every night. There are great coaches and obviously the best players in the world. It is a bunch of fun to prepare for every game because of the challenge that is in front of you.
AE: The NBA said they are making some adjustments to the schedule to minimize player fatigue. Was this an issue that your players talked about for some time now? Are they happy with the change to the schedule?
BS: I think we still have seventeen back to backs this year. I am not positive. It was somewhere around there last year. I don’t think it has changed a ton. It is hard to squeeze eighty-two games in a schedule that goes from October 27th to April 13th. The reality is that you are going to have times like that. The schedule is what it is. When it comes out I think you focus on doing travel, working with your sleep experts and your food experts as much as possible to help your team perform to its very highest level each and every night.
There is always going to be challenges within the schedule. That goes for every team. That is why we really don’t talk about it. Every team can circle two or three times during the season that are extremely difficult. Anytime that you are competing in sports the last thing you need is an excuse. We will recognize the challenges ahead. We will approach those correctly from a preparation standpoint and from an appropriate training load standpoint. Then we will try to play our best on that given night and do so without excuses. It is just part of being an NBA player on an NBA team.
BS: One of the things that has been tough about being a coach in general is that I grew up a fan. That I grew up into the game. I was a fan of basketball. I was a fan of the teams that were around me in the state of Indiana. I was a fan of players all over the country that I was inspired by. So when you get into coaching some of that emotion as a fan is just taken away. You have to focus on the task at hand and stay in the moment.
Sometimes when you get a big win you know that there are challenges that come with that. When you have a really tough loss you know it is not as bad as it looked. It may not be as bad as it has been portrayed or going to be portrayed. You just have to move on to what is next. You try to stay even keeled as much as possible, but man I loved being a fan. It was a blast. I get it. I am excited about passion that our fans bring to the table. For us I think it has carried us in a lot of circumstances here in TD Garden. I feel like our guys really appreciate and understand the responsibility that comes along with being a Boston Celtic.
AE: Switching to fatherhood now, what were some of the first few thoughts that popped into your mind when you found out that you were going to be a dad?
BS: Oh man it is the greatest. To have the chance to celebrate the birth of your own child and watch them grow and develop and learn and experience new things has been the ultimate blessing. I have got a number of players both college and pro that have had kids in the last few years. I always text them the exact same thing when I get the introductory text to their newborn. It is there is nothing better. There is no doubt about that.
AE: How is being a head coach of an NBA team similar to being a father?
BS: First of all I think both responsibilities are important. You want to put your signature on this job. You want to do the very best you can. You want the people that you are working with to feel like you are invested in them and that you are putting a lot time and thought into them. You want to do that with your own children. You want them to know that you are doing everything you can to help them have a great next day.
You are there to support them and support their passions and help them find out what they like to do. Try to help put them into position with any advice here or there that you can give that might help them enjoy and experience life even more. My kids are young. They are seven and ten. So the challenges they face are much different than 22 year olds face, but nonetheless you feel a great amount of responsibility doing both.
AE: What are some of the core values you look to instill in your kids as they grow up?
BS: That is really hard because I think that is a never ending list. There are so many great standards and values. The biggest thing that we try to talk about on a day to day basis and is inspired by the people you feel the best being around is to just be kind. You can never go wrong by doing right. Those are the two things that we try and talk about as much as possible.
Kids are kids, but I think that we are fortunate and they are fortunate to grow up in such an age where they are connected to so many people. They can stay connected to their friends. We had a move in our family. They can stay connected because of technology. It is a neat time to be a kid. I think that our job is to simply pass those two things on and help them find their passion and support them as much as possible.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads?
BS: (Laughs.) I don’t know if I should really be giving advice. I am learning every day. I don’t know what the one piece of advice would be. I think that the one thing that I have been constantly told by people that I respect is to really support your kids and encourage your kid’s passions and interests.
There are some things that I believe very strongly as far as not specializing too early in sports. Making sure that you have a lot of opportunities to work in groups. I believe in the value of teamwork. I believe in the benefit of being part of a team. I believe in the comradery that can be found in a team and working towards a common objective. We like to keep our kids in enough activities where they don’t get overloaded. At the same time they have got to experience operating and working in a group setting. Ultimately that is most likely what you are going to have to do as you move forward in life.
Life of Dad Quick Five
BS: I would say that we don’t necessarily have a favorite family movie. With a seven year old girl and a ten year old boy I would say that there are some distinct differences in their movie tastes.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing and dance to as a family?
BS: No, I tell you it is the same thing. My ten year old is not into the same music as my daughter. If my daughter picks out a song that she really, really likes my ten year old is less likely to think that is a good song.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
BS: The perfect family vacation for us is where there is a lot of activities. We have two young kids that love to be out and about. They love to be active. Their parents certainly love to be out and about, exploring, and being active. One that we were really lucky to go on last year as part of the NBA trip to South Africa, which was on a three day safari.
Man that was special. It was a special three days to be there with your kids out in the open air and see all those beautiful animals. Special moment and special memories for our family.
AE: At what age did you know you wanted to coach basketball?
BS: I wasn’t one of these guys that grew up knowing. I think very few people growing up dream of coaching basketball. I think there are a lot of people dreaming of playing. That was where I was. I dreamed of playing. I wanted to be a player. I don’t think I really ever dreamed of being a professional basketball player. I knew better than that.
I really wanted to play in college. I am guessing because in 1984 in the Olympics that the basketball team was coached by Coach Knight. For whatever reason the Olympics were part of that dream. That was before we sent our pros. In 1987 Indiana hosted the Pan-Am games with a bunch of college kids there. That opportunity to represent your country was what inspired me. Coaching was a byproduct of me not being a good enough player I guess.
AE: Who was your favorite NBA player when you were a kid?
BS: I think I am supposed to say Larry Bird because I am coaching here in Boston. He is from Indiana and I like Larry Bird a lot. I loved watching him play. I would be lying if I didn’t say Reggie Miller. I was eleven in 1987 when he got drafted to the Pacers. Even when I went to college he was still playing with the Pacers. Wore 31 in high school. Wanted to run off screens and shoot the ball even close to Reggie Miller. I think that there was a lot of us in Indiana that felt that way.