Celtics

The lessons Brad Stevens learned from last season are already evident

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(Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

No one was harder on himself for how last season went than Brad Stevens.

The head coach was refreshingly candid in the assessment of his poor performance in the wake of a 4-1 series loss to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He certainly wasn’t the cause of the defeat but he failed to prevent the sinking ship from taking on more water in the final few months of the season, despite his best efforts. After years of getting the best out of his roster full of underdog talent which led to endless praise around the league, Stevens was sure to put himself front and center for Boston’s failure.

“I’ll be the first to say that this, you know, as far as any other year that I’ve been a head coach, it’s certainly been the most trying,” Stevens said last May. “I did a bad job. At the end of the day, as a coach, if your team doesn’t find its best fit together, that’s on you. I’ll do a lot of deep dives into how I can be better.”

Those comments did not go unnoticed by returning veterans on the Celtics roster. While the case has been made by some critics can be made that Stevens got too much of the credit for his team's play when the Celtics’ made surprise runs to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017 and 2018, the fact that he tried to deflect the blame from his players after an embarrassing performance against the Bucks during which one of his stars looked like he checked out on his team spoke volumes to those on the roster.

“Brad was in a tough situation like we were,” Marcus Smart told BostonSportsJournal.com. “We never dealt with that type of publicity and Brad never dealt with it either. It's a learning point for us and him. We went through it together. It takes a lot for a coach to admit when he didn't do his best job and we commend Brad for that. You got somebody like that as a coach who is generally able to own up to it, you have so much more respect for him and the team wanting to go out to play for him. The team tends to trust him a little bit more.”

That trust is already evident as the preseason got underway last week. Despite his mismanagement of last year’s