BOSTON -- Even as the Boston Celtics have endured their rebuilding lumps, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has pledged unconditional support for head coach Brad Stevens, joking at times that he'd like to give him another six-year contract for his tireless efforts in trying to steer Boston back to contender status.
The 38-year-old Stevens knows the NBA is a bottom-line business and, given Boston's struggles the past two seasons, appreciates that support, particularly knowing how fast a coach -- like Orlando's Jacque Vaughn -- can find himself on the hot seat during the rebuilding process.
Stevens didn't want to discuss Vaughn's situation -- though he did note that "Jacque is a really good coach" -- but reaffirmed his appreciation for the patience displayed by his own bosses.
"I’ve said it from Day 1 here, the biggest thing is that our ownership and our leadership team has been very good with me, very supportive," said Stevens. "At the end of the day, you’re really just focused on coaching your team as well as you can and doing it the best of your ability everyday. I think when I was going through at Butler, and we were having all kinds of success, I just kept learning and re-learning how important it was to not focus on anything but coaching the team. Then you come here, and we’re experiencing our fair share of growing pains and it’s the same answer: Focus on what you can control. You do it as well as you can. You hope that people appreciate that, and at the same time, we understand that it’s a really competitive business."
McHale on new-look C's
"Rondo dominated the ball and was able to make plays. I’ve always liked Jeff Green, I thought Jeff Green was one of those guys that was kinda a great guy that could do a little bit of everything very well," said McHale. "From watching them while preparing [for Friday's game], [Jared] Sullinger is going to be more aggressive, it seems like the perimeter guys more handling the ball more now that Rondo is not there. They are all being more aggressive and trying to make plays. It just seems like some things have opened up a little bit and now the guys are handling the ball. They play hard every night, hit the glass pretty hard -- they're a physical team."
Stevens explains late-game strategy
The Celtics were faced with a tough late-game situation on Friday. Down three with 27 seconds to go, Stevens elected to foul instead of playing for a stop and having a short-clock situation for a final potential shot.
Avery Bradley gave a foul with 21 seconds remaining, but Corey Brewer made both freebies to push Houston's lead back to five. Bradley missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to essentially seal Seattle's win.
"You know, it was tough with 55 seconds left," said Stevens. "I just went with the percentages on [Josh] Smith. When there’s a small differential, it’s difficult. We had one time out, and so you get a stop, you get the ball back with 5 seconds, you’re bound to have to shoot a 3. They have everybody in there that can switch. Their length and athleticism made it hard for us to get a sniff at a 3 late. If you could notice, Marcus Thornton had to drive the ball, Avery got it blocked on the last one because it’s -- they can swallow you up with their switching."
• Stevens said it was good to be back home after a season-long six-game road trip out west. With the region still shoveling out from this week's blizzard (and bracing for more snow on its way), Stevens did quip, "I never thought I'd choose to go to Minnesota for [better] weather."
• Tayshaun Prince's postgame wisdom: "The key to every game is how you start the first quarter, how you end the second quarter, how you start the third, and how you end the game. Lately, that’s where we’ve been kind of up and down a bit. If we can get those things in order, everything will take care of itself. But the most important thing is you’ve got to play with some energy."