Stevens was still the head coach at Butler and met his friend Ron Adams, who was then a Bulls assistant, and Thibodeau. Stevens was impressed by Thibodeau then and is even more so now after he getting into the NBA himself.
“He is an elite coach,” Stevens said prior to Thursday’s game against the Bulls. “He’s outstanding. Defensively, they’re so sound in what they do. They can change what they do. They can tweak.
“Their players all know their roles inside and out. I said this yesterday in Boston -- I admire the way they have the continuity of playing together. They’re older guys. They know exactly what they need to do on both ends of the floor. I hope we can get to that point. I hope we can build that kind of continuity in Boston because you can tell how much it means to them on the court.”
Earlier in the day, Thibodeau praised Stevens -- and the Celtics for hiring him.
“He’s a great coach, period,” Thibodeau said after the team’s shootaround. “Didn’t surprise me. He’s a student of the game. He’s had great success at a high level in college. I thought it was a great hire for them.”
Thibodeau, who previously worked for the Celtics, thought Stevens was the type of coach who could guide a Boston franchise in transition after the departures of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
“[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge saw what was coming,” Thibodeau said. “This is part of what they wanted to do. It was a great run with Kevin, Paul and Ray. That came to an end. Now they’re moving forward. They’ve got some really good young pieces.
“People tend to forget [Rajon] Rondo is out. Rondo is the type of guy who makes everyone better. They have good young parts. They got some good veterans. I like [Brandon] Bass a lot. He’s a tough competitor. Jeff Green is a very good competitor. They have some good pieces in place.”
Another valuable piece to these Celtics has been Adams, who left the Bulls after last season, and was later hired by Stevens.
“He’s been a longtime friend of mine,” Stevens said of Adams. “He’s been great. When I hired him, he kind of characterized himself as my editor, and I thought it was a really good phrase, and I found it to be really true. ‘What would work, what won’t work. Yeah, why not try this? This might work.’
“It’s been great to have him around. He’s one of those guys in coaching he’s been doing it a long time. He’s got so many experiences, and he’s only doing it to help us all grow and get better, both staff and players.”