As they took their seats at the 2010 NCAA men’s national championship game, Danny Ainge, the Boston Celtics’ director of basketball operations, made a declaration to team owner Steve Pagliuca. They were about to watch Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils take on the upstart Butler Bulldogs, coached by then 33-year-old Brad Stevens.
“I said to Steve at the time, ‘That’s the best coach in college basketball right down there,’” Ainge recalled years later. “He thought I was talking about Coach K.”
Ainge, like much of the basketball world, was enamored with Stevens. Three years year later — after Stevens got Butler back to another championship game — Ainge and Pagliuca lured him to the NBA and made him the Celtics’ head coach.
It was a bold move. Stevens had no NBA experience. It was also expected to pay off. Big.
It didn’t, at least not to the standards of the Celtics, who own 17 NBA championships. That’s part of the deal in Boston, where it’s almost all or nothing. Stevens proved to be a good coach. There is no questioning that. He never got to the Finals though. His eighth season ended Tuesday night in a blowout loss and a gentleman’s sweep at the hands of Brooklyn.
By morning, Ainge was resigning and Stevens was moving into the front office to take the job. Boston will look for a new coach.
The move was dizzying, a shock across the NBA and left as many questions as answers.
Start with this: exactly what experience or track record has Stevens displayed to get him an immediate promotion to run a franchise that is rivaled only by the Los Angeles Lakes as the most storied in NBA history? He was impressive at drawing up plays, but does that translate? Is this a job he’ll be good at? If so, how?
Pagliuca and primary owner Wyc Grousbeck felt the team needed a reboot. Ainge, in 18 years on the job, built the 2008 NBA championship team, but never capitalized on a recent boatload of draft picks and the franchise’s numerous advantages to get back there.
As such, wouldn’t looking at a pool of candidates make sense? If Stevens was being groomed for the job, then he was involved in some of the missteps — big or small — that left the roster hamstrung.
This was a backroom, planned-out deal … the old boy network at work.
That Stevens is white in a league that is so predominantly Black will be of great interest across the sport. Even if you believe the hire was 100 percent justified professionally and ethically, as a simple practical and competitive matter, how it came about is significant.
In the modern NBA, attracting star free agents is as important as drafts and development. Narratives matter. Reputation matters. Stevens may prove to be the greatest general manager of all time, but the Celtics walked right into this punch. The way he got the job made doing the job more difficult.
After all, it was Brooklyn that Ainge fleeced in 2013, sending aging stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets for a run of top draft picks. As recently as 2018, Brooklyn had little hope and few draft picks. Boston had a supposed title contender.
Now it’s Boston reshuffling and Brooklyn plotting out a parade route because it could attract Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden.
It is on Pagliuca and Grousbeck to explain their thinking, to sell the decision and the process.
Stevens is a very smart guy and a very creative Xs and Os coach. Again, he may be great. He is widely respected within the NBA and being offered control of the Celtics sure isn’t his fault. Anyone would take it.
But from the outside, here is a coach who never got the team over the top. His only NBA front office experience would be working with Ainge, who during Stevens’ time couldn’t piece enough of the puzzle together to get them there.
Did he learn from Ainge’s recent mistakes? Or are the Celtics fine with their current construct and are writing off this season to injuries and the reality that perhaps no one can handle the Brooklyn buzzsaw anyway?
If so, that’s fine. Boston’s roster has youth and talent. This year’s early exit notwithstanding, this is hardly some cratering mess.
If nothing else, this should continue to stomp out whatever faint hope college basketball fans hold that Stevens will return to that level and save their program. Despite not wanting to be an NBA coach for the foreseeable future, Stevens wasn’t even interested in taking over Indiana University, in his home state.
He’s an NBA guy at this point. The college game, where coaches can get caught discussing “strong ass” recruiting offers on FBI wiretaps and still maintain their employment isn’t very appealing to those who don’t want to wade into the muck. It’s part of what sent him to the NBA. It’s gotten only worse since.
For Stevens, just 44, this is the new challenge, making the moves from the front office, not the sideline, to get Boston back to hanging banners at North Station.
The way he got the job was wild, unexpected and will raise eyebrows across the league. There’s nothing to do now but prove he was the man for the job anyway.
EXCITING! Naomi Osaka To Feature on LeBron James’ Show ‘The Shop’
Things have not gone according to plan for Naomi Osaka off late. From unprecedented issues at the French Open to a dip in her form, it’s been a rough couple of months for the Japanese international. At the 2021 US Open too, she was unable to defend her title and ended up losing in the third round, failing to make it past teen sensation Leylah Fernandez.
However, it’s not all that bad for Naomi Osaka off-court. She has bagged a number of endorsement deals, becoming the face of several leading companies in the market. Notably, the Japanese star is quite the American favorite. Not just fans and commercial firms, but even entities from varied sports share a close connection with the 4-time major’s winner.
Naomi Osaka to feature in a basketball stars’ show
Fans have often spotted Naomi alongside legendary basketball players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Interestingly, Osaka will soon be featuring in “The Shop,” a show produced by LeBron himself. Undoubtedly, the youth icon will be a prominent addition to the show’s star-studded guest list. Fans can catch the episode on HBO.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 23: Naomi Osaka of Japan speaks during media day prior to the the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 23, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
On the business end of things, Naomi began the 2021 season brilliantly, winning the Australian Open. In doing so, she won her fourth Grand Slam title. However, it’s not all been rosy since then.
Citing mental health concerns, Naomi announced her withdrawal from the Roland Garros. Her decision was received with mixed reactions as it sparked controversy all across the globe. However, as her sabbatical continued, she also withdrew from the 2021 Wimbledon Championship.
Despite a memorable return at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she could not go deep and failed to bag a medal for the host nation. We wish her the best of luck for the rest of the season.
Ohanian on how his perspective has changed since marriage to Serena Williams
Speaking at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference in New York, Serena Williams’ husband Alexis Ohanian commented on how his perception towards tennis changed since he met Serena, whom he married in November 2017.
The couple is parents to a daughter, Alexis Olympia who was born in September 2017. “I played team sports my entire life and I thought tennis was a joke of a sport. I thought it was something people did for giggles when they wanted to get a little exercise.
I would change the channel when it came on,” confessed Ohanian. The Reddit co-founder added: “I was so naive and so wrong and my entire mindset of sport… no matter what day I was having, there were 10 other guys on the field or four other guys on the court who were there to help me out because it was team-based.
To take rejection and defeat and to be able to find that next gear and that higher level is something she has turned into an artform and is unparalleled at. That is a mental strength that doesn’t get enough credit in sport.
The mental strength it requires when you are alone out there with just one other person combined with the mental reset that is required between every serve is unmatched in terms of physical strength required to be great. That universal truth I see it in the beauty of the sport but not just when she’s playing it, also in the preparation leading up to it.”
Williams who returned to the Tour after giving birth to her daughter has reached four Major finals (2018 Wimbledon and US Open, and 2019 Wimbledon and US Open).
Tiger Woods, his caddie Joe LaCava in back
Tiger Woods continues to recover from the injuries sustained in a car accident in Southern California. His caddie, Joe LaCava, made the return to professional golf this week. LaCava, who was on Woods’ bag for the win at the 2019 Masters, is on Fred Couples’ bag at the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa this week.
Joe LaCava, statements
“Yeah, loopin for Fred in Des Moines. Actually eating pasta watching hockey with him right now. Like nothing has changed 10 years later! Would kill to be working for TW in Columbus. Of course I miss it.
Love Fred like a brother” Alena Sharp is a 16-year LPGA Tour veteran and Olympic athlete from Canada. He wrote an article for the LPGA web site. “I’ve been married to my wife Sarah Bowman, who is also my caddie, since November of 2020 and our union is more accepted now than at any point in history.
People view us now as married people. We’re the couple, just like any other. That’s a big jump from just a few years ago and lightyears from where society was when I was a kid. I’m 40 now and have been on the LPGA Tour for 16 years.
When I was a rookie, my friends and family knew that I was gay. But it wasn’t something that I publicized. I didn’t want to alienate any potential sponsors and didn’t want to put any of my existing sponsors in an awkward spot.
I wasn’t closeted. I just lived my life quietly, keeping my orientation out of the public eye. Even that was better than the way society viewed us when I was young. I noticed when I was 15 years old that I was finding women more attractive than men.
I tried not to think about it, but it was always there. My last year of junior golf, when I was 17, I realized it more. It’s hard because you’re a kid and having feelings that you don’t understand. But who can you tell? I was raised Catholic where the teachings were clear: is a sin.
My grandparents and parents went to Mass and followed the precepts of their faith, so I couldn’t talk to them. I already knew what the priests would say. And this isn’t exactly a conversation that you have with teenaged friends.
Then when I went to college. I was really confused because I was dating men and afraid to date a woman. I knew I wanted to; I knew by then that I was strongly attracted to women, but at that time there was an inherent fear. A fear of rejection; a fear of discrimination; a fear of being shut out and closed off from the relationships that mattered most to me at the time.
And there was, at times, a palpable fear of physical harm. There were still parts of the United States and Canada where you could be assaulted because of your orientation. So, in addition to all the other things a college freshman goes through, I battled all those questions, feeling, and fears”