Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown admits he and current Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan don’t have a particularly close relationship.
But Brown still remembers a harsh lesson he learned from Donovan, and notes it’s made him a more driven athlete. It dates back to when a 17-year-old Brown was a member of USA Basketball’s u-18 team, a squad that Donovan coached.
While talking to UMass students Friday, as transcribed by the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy, Brown recalled that he wasn’t happy with his playing time despite the fact he was “killing everybody in practice” and that he “probably was the best player (on the team).”
So, Brown approached Donovan. And that’s where the lesson first came to be.
“He told me he wasn’t playing me because he said I didn’t play hard,” Brown recalled. “I said ‘What do you mean, I’ve been cooking everybody.’ And he told me you’re only going to be in the league for three years because you don’t play hard.
“And instantly I was emotional. I was 17 years old. I was like, ‘What do you mean? I’m the best player here. I’m cooking everybody,” Brown added. “I was so mad I was crying. But I think Billy Donovan had a big impact on my drive for sure. I’m in the NBA now, and hopefully I have a couple more years now to go, so we’ll see.”
The 23-year-old Brown now understands what message Donovan was trying to make, and even though he “didn’t appreciate that at all,” it helped him build his work ethic while already possessing the physical tools.
“What he meant by that, I realized as I got older, was that I wasn’t playing to my potential,” Brown said. “I was probably the best player there, but I wasn’t applying myself as best as I could. I was using my talent to beat people, and I could have been outworking them as well. I kind of realized that when I got older, and I realized what that really meant, in terms of who I am and what life is about. Everybody has talent, but talent will only get you so far.”
Brown, and Boston fans alike, look forward to the fourth-year Celtic showing off that work ethic-talent combination again whenever the NBA season returns.