Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.
But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.
Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:
You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?
Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.
You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.
Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.
I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.
But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.
That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.
Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.
Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.
I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.
Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.