Brad Stevens (BOS)
The Coach of the Year race has been a very compelling one all season. What generally defines the Coach of the Year is coaching a team that exceeds expectations. There were plenty of teams this year that exceeded expectations thanks to good coaching. The Pacers finished 5th in the Eastern Conference after trading away Paul George, the Raptors were quietly the best team in the East all season, and the Jazz found their way back into the playoffs after losing Gordon Hayward. None of that, however, compares to what Brad Stevens was able to do with the Celtics this season.
The Celtics didn’t just defy expectations this season, they overcame adversity the entire year. The start of these challenges began in the offseason. Only four players from the previous season returned to Brad Stevens’ roster this year; That is never a good situation to be in for a coach. Don’t worry, I’m not going to act like Brad Stevens had it that bad. He did acquire two All-Star caliber players – one of which he coached in college, making them very familiar with each other. Nevertheless, having two thirds of your team go away and get replaced in the offseason is difficult for a coach. Though, Stevens was able to integrate his new players into his winning system pretty well.
The roster would change even more throughout the season though. That guy that Stevens coached in college, Gordon Hayward, broke his leg after just five minutes in their first game this season. After that, the expectations for the C’s were shattered. That wouldn’t stop their head coach. He plugged in rookie forward Jayson Tatum into Hayward’s role and was able to make it work. The injuries still wouldn’t stop. The Celtics had to deal with losing starters such as Al Horford, Marcus Morris, and even their best player Kyrie Irving. With all that, Boston still found themselves with 54 wins and finishing second in the East. This was clearly due in large part to the outstanding coaching of Brad Stevens.
While there were plenty of great coaching performances this season, no coach did what Brad Stevens did.