WALTHAM, Mass. -- The way Walter McCarty recalls it, he first met Brad Stevens a few years back during a recruiting trip to the LeBron James Skills Academy in Ohio. McCarty was an assistant coach at Louisville under former Celtics coach Rick Pitino when Stevens -- his Bulldogs fresh off a national title game appearance -- approached the Cardinals' delegation about setting up a game.
"He wanted to get a game against Louisville. That’s what I liked about him, he approached us, he was very considerate, very nice, and approached Coach P about doing a game," said McCarty. "Coach [Pitino] said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ They put it together, and, actually, Butler opened up the [KFC] Yum Center [in Louisville in 2010]."
Three years later, Stevens approached McCarty about a desire to add a former player to his first-year coaching staff in Boston. For McCarty, it was an easy decision when the formal offer to become an assistant was extended earlier this month.
"I’ve always been asked if I would get back into coaching, and I always said it would have to be the right situation," said McCarty, who spent one NBA season with former Celtics coach Jim O'Brien in Indiana. McCarty worked last season for the Celtics in community endeavors. "It couldn’t be any better than this. My family and I were already back living here, I was also already doing things for the Celtics anyway. I think it was just an awesome opportunity and it just made perfect sense."
Stevens sent a letter to former Celtics players in late July trying to build relationships with Boston's past and then turned his attention to finding a former player to fill out a staff that already included holdovers Jamie Young and Jay Larranaga, along with recent hires Ron Adams and Micah Shrewsberry. Stevens considered a group that included McCarty and James Posey before making a final decision.
The 39-year-old McCarty stressed that it was his roots with the organization -- he spent nearly eight seasons here as a player -- and his coaching experience that likely helped him land the gig. A recent report suggested that the Celtics were looking for someone who could reach Rajon Rondo, but McCarty downplayed his relationship with the point guard.
"I think that my background with the Celtics and all the things that I’ve done with this organization have a lot to do with it. With Rondo, I think [it had] very little [to do with it]," said McCarty. "I know of Rondo, obviously he played at Kentucky, but just seeing him around here; I don’t think that had much to do with it. I think my experience as a player and as a coach had a lot more to do it."
McCarty believes he can bring a player's voice to the staff, helping Stevens adapt to the NBA level by being able to relate to what his charges are feeling over the course of an 82-game season. McCarty said that they have not discussed whether he'll focus on one position or another, but suggested he believes he can relate to all of the players on the roster from his experiences.
"It’s basketball guys, I’ve been playing it my whole life," joked McCarty. "If this was geometry class, we might be in trouble. It’s basketball, I’ve been around it my whole life, and I think I have a lot to offer at every position."
McCarty spent Thursday afternoon at a community event instructing young hoopsters at the team's training facility. He said his first days as an assistant have focused on getting to know Stevens better.
"It feels great, being back here and just being on the staff, and hanging out with Brad, just getting to know him better the last few days has been great," said McCarty. "We kinda met each other on the recruiting trail back in college, so we knew of each other. When the opportunity arose, we had a lot of conversations, it led to this, so I’m very excited."
Later McCarty added on Stevens, "I thought he was great. He’s always been a brilliant mind. The thing I like best about him is that he’s humble. He wants to continue to learn every day. He doesn't act like he knows everything. He wants to learn and make sure everybody is comfortable with everything that we have going on. He’s a great guy, a great mind with a lot of working knowledge, and I’m just excited and looking forward to the challenge."
McCarty said working for Pitino helped him with advanced scouting and game-planning. That time at Louisville and Indiana also helped him learn how to relate to players, no easy transition for someone as they emerge from their own playing days. He gushed about getting to work with this young Boston roster as the team attempts to navigate the transition process.
"The thing that I love about [coaching] is the relationship you build with the players," said McCarty. "I’m really looking forward to that."