Believe it or not, Brad Stevens did not take Butler to back-to-back national championship games and rise to take Red Auerbach‘s old job in basketball’s most decorated franchise simply by poring over spreadsheets.
That image of Stevens has proliferated ever since the admittedly analytical former economics major was hired as Celtics head coach. Unlike many traditionalists in his field, Stevens proudly embraces the new advanced statistics and technological improvements that have created new ways to look at the game of basketball.
But when it comes down to it, the 36-year-old still puts a lot of weight in the “eye test.”
“If I had to choose between analytics and culture, I’d choose culture,” Stevens said Wednesday at Celtics training camp in Newport, R.I., according to the Boston Herald. “Now, I think you can choose both, and you can do both well. I think analytics are a part of winning. Culture is the foundation of winning. At least, that’s what I believe. Why not have a little bit of an advantage here or there, knowing who you’re guarding and how they like to play?”
Most critically, Stevens points out that there is not a definitive line between “old school” and “new school” coaches. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, for instance, is decidedly “old school” for the heavy minutes he demands from his core players, but the former Celtics assistants also accepts and implements many of the conclusions drawn by his statistics analysts.
“What I don’t want to do is take this notion that there’s this new age of coaches that use statistics, because coaches have been using statistics for a long time,” Stevens said. “You’ve got a guy like Tom Thibodeau coaching the Bulls who’s a statistics freak. … Is he characterized as [an ‘analytics guy’?] Probably not. But any coach that wants to do well is going to try to find what little advantages we can gain.”
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