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On Friday morning, at the team’s practice facility in Waltham, the Boston Celtics formally introduced new head coach Brad Stevens, who will take over for Doc Rivers after six years at the helm of Butler University’s successful program. Stevens, at 36 the youngest coach in the NBA, has signed a six-year, $22 million contract with the Celtics. The team’s management hopes this long-term investment will deliver the franchise its 18th championship.
General manager Danny Ainge opened the press conference by explaining that Stevens was his first choice to replace Rivers, and that negotiations began last week before they were finalized on Wednesday. Ainge said Stevens, “will have great support”, in Boston, and that was on full display on Friday, as co-owners Wyc Grousbeck, Stephen Pagliuca and team president Rich Gotham were all in attendance.
Stevens, who reportedly turned down offers from UCLA and another NBA team earlier this year, mentioned the Celtics’ storied history as a major factor in his decision to accept the job. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be here”, he said, “I am absolutely humbled to be sitting in this room and looking around at the banners that hang.”
But Stevens also looked to the future, which is currently as uncertain as it’s been in a while for the Celtics. “I’m excited to sit down and meet all the players,” he said, “what I’ve got to do is continue studying and I’ve got people who I’ll lean on.” Stevens didn’t avoid talking about point guard, Rajon Rondo, who has been involved in a number of trade rumors over the past few days. Although it’s certainly not a lock that Rondo will still be a Celtic next season, the new coach had high praise for him, saying, “There is no bigger fan of Rajon Rondo than me.” Stevens also revealed that he has already spoken to Rondo on the phone, and said that he looks forward to meeting him in person.
The main reason why some are wary of the Stevens hiring is the lack of success by other coaches who have made the transition from the college ranks to the NBA, including Louisville’s Rick Pitino, whose four-year stint with the Celtics is remembered for his complicated relationship with the fans and media, and an overall lack of positive results. Stevens addressed those concerns, but avoided making any comparisons. “I’m aware of everybody that’s made the transition,” he assured media members, “what I would look for in any environment are people that are on the same page.”
Despite Stevens’s positive words, there are plenty of questions still unanswered about Rondo’s future. The point guard is a notoriously difficult personality, and it remains to be seen what his reaction will be to the trade that will send Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets. Rondo has played his entire NBA career alongside Pierce, and has a great relationship with Garnett, and he reportedly was not happy when Kendrick Perkins, his best friend on the team at the time, was traded to Oklahoma City back in 2011.
Stevens mentioned Rondo’s high basketball IQ, and hopefully he will be able to adapt to the new circumstances off the court as well, providing that he stays in Boston. Rondo hasn’t spoken to the media yet, and the Brooklyn trade won’t be official until Wednesday, so the speculation will continue for now. Only one thing is certain: if he isn’t traded, the Celtics are now unquestionably Rondo’s team, and he’ll have to step into a leadership role if the rebuilding process is to be quick and painless.