WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, tasked with overseeing the team's summer league squad, had humorously dodged a series of questions about Avery Bradley's re-signing while citing the league's moratorium period when the conversation swung to whether rookie James Young had participated in Wednesday's workout.
"Twister, what’s a good answer for that one?" Larranaga said with a smile as he looked again to the team's media relations czar Jeff Twiss before playfully exclaiming, "Jiminy Christmas!"
Twiss relayed the necessary information and Larranaga offered it back: "James observed practice. He did the stationary bike a little bit, just watched, and participated from the sidelines."
Young, the 17th overall pick in the 2014 draft, is battling some lingering neck issues after being involved in a minor car accident that forced him to cancel some pre-draft workouts. The team is uncertain if he'll be able to participate in Boston's five-game slate that starts Saturday at the Orlando Summer League.
Larranaga, entering his third year with Boston, will coach the summer squad for a second straight summer and said his goal is to install the system and culture that head coach Brad Stevens is trying to create in Boston.
"Brad is great, because he really looks to empower all of his assistants during the season and in summer league. That’s why he’s so great to work for," said Larranaga, who previously coached the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League. "I kinda look at my job like I looked at my D-League job, you’re like a [junior varsity] coach. You run what the head coach wants, you’re trying to establish, in a very short amount of time, the culture and the habits that Brad wants during the season. That’s kinda how I’m approaching it."
Larranaga was asked if he tries to think like Stevens might in the regular season.
"I wish I could think like Brad thinks," he said with a laugh. "Every person is different. I’m always trying to learn from him. I think he’s a great coach, so I’m trying to steal as much as I can from him. I am my own person as well."
Larranaga is expected to shuffle into the role of lead assistant with the recent departure of Ron Adams. That could put him in line to coach the team in the event that Stevens gets ejected from a game.
"It was actually pretty funny, because I was talking to Brad a could days ago about -- he said, ‘If I were to get ejected ...' and I said, ‘It’s not a hypothetical, you got ejected this year,’" said Larranaga, referencing how Stevens got tossed during a loss in Sacramento in February. "He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, OK.’ It was a little bit of a scramble, but there was only a few seconds left, so it wasn’t a big deal."
Larranaga is eager for what lies ahead, both in Orlando and the 2014-15 season.
"I’m excited to coach in Orlando. It’s fun to be a little bit more active in practices and in the games," he said. "You learn a lot working from coach Stevens during the year and now it’s an opportunity to kinda try to emulate a lot of the things that he does that make him so successful. I don’t foresee my role, during the season, changing very much. I’ve really enjoyed every year I’ve been with the Celtics and trying to contribute the best I can. I’ll continue to do that."
The Celtics interviewed Larranaga about the team's vacancy before Stevens was hired and he drew additional interest from Philadelphia. The son of University of Miami men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga, Jay seems destined to be a head coach in the NBA down the road. For now, the 39-year-old is enjoying his time watching and learning from 37-year-old Stevens.
"I think all of us learned so much from coach Stevens [last year]," said Larranaga. "He has an incredible will to prepare to win. People talk about that a lot -- his is unbelievable. I felt like we were so prepared going into each game, and he was so prepared, which then allowed him to be incredibly composed in pressure situations and I think that feeds to your players. When he’s so prepared and so comfortable in stressful situations — now, the Miami game was the best example of that. He’s just drawing up plays and [saying], ‘We got this.’ That was really enjoyable for me to watch and try to learn from."
As for his own development, Larranaga added: "I feel like I try to improve on a daily basis as a coach. I think I’m a better coach today than I was yesterday, and this summer as opposed to the summer before. Just keep trying to improve and hopefully that bears out."