Rick Pitino

Rick Pitino thinks Brad Stevens is a perfect fit for the Boston Celtics

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Brad Stevens was introduced as the Boston Celtics new coach in early July. The former Butler head coach is making the daring jump, leaving the college ranks for the NBA. In the past, this has not gone well for many great collegiate coaches.

John Calipari lasted three seasons in New Jersey and Rick Pitino, who was successful with the New York Knicks, had a 102-146 record in three-plus seasons with the Boston Celtics. Just a reminder, these are the last two head coaches to win the national championship.

Despite the lack of success from coaches in the past, Pitino believes that Stevens will be able to make the transition as the head coach of Celtics.

“It’s all about your personality,” Pitino said during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame press conference on Saturday afternoon.

“Brad Stevens is a perfect fit, perfect, couldn’t be more of a perfect fit to go from college to the pros. He runs pro offense. He runs a pro defense.”

Pitino left his post at Providence College for the Knicks opening in 1987. But even before he became the head coach at PC, he was an assistant under Hubie Brown in New York.  Serving as an NBA assistant coach was considered a prerequisite to being an NBA head coach in Pitino’s mind. Although, he sees Stevens as an exception to that rule.

“I spent two years with Hubie Brown as an assistant, that prepared me,” Pitino said.

“It’s so foreign. It’s such a foreign game, the pros to college. That is an adjustment that’s difficult to make unless you’ve been there. Brad is one of the few people I think can do it. I think Coach K can do it because of his Olympic experience. But it’s very difficult to do unless you have experience as an assistant.”

Stevens is a great X’s-and-O’s coach. He has also been on the forefront of the advanced statistic movement in the game of basketball, which includes his analytic specialist Drew Cannon. The rise in the in-depth basketball statistics is something that Pitino himself has noticed during the course of the summer.

While speaking with several professional scouts, Pitino was presented with Peyton Siva’s shooting percentages. It was broken down, not by makes or misses, but into segments, indicating what areas on the floor Siva shoots the best from.

“I was a little blown away by that,” Pitino said.

“The Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as seven, eight other teams in the NBA have adopted the version of baseball’s ‘Moneyball.’ They’re doing it, and before you know it 28 of the 30 teams in the league [will use it], and then it will filter down to college.”

Stevens was given a six-year deal by Boston, worth $22 million. So like Pitino, Danny Ainge and Co. have faith in the 36-year-old head coach that guided Butler to back-to-back national title games.

As for Pitino, he’s made the jump to the NBA twice, one good stint, one bad stint, though the college game has suited him just fine. It’s led him to Final Fours at three different schools, a pair of national titles, and oh yeah a spot in the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.

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Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS — This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.

The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments — which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.

The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition — dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.

“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”

Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea — a drone dunk — but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.

Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest — interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke the Smoothie King Center up.

DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.

In the end, it was Gordon who was making the plays.

“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson III won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’s best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS — The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation — they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help — Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.

Derrick Jones Jr. catches pass off side of backboard, jams between-legs dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — With defending runner-up Aaron Gordon eliminated in the first round, Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. might be our best hope to save the dunk contest.