Brad Stevens made it very clear he wants no part of coaching the Celtics during Ime Udoka’s suspension.
His boss gave off a slightly different impression.
Almost immediately after Stevens, the now-president of basketball operations, shut the door on chatter that he ever considered coaching on temporary basis during Udoka’s season-long suspension or even stepping if should interim coach Joe Mazzulla struggle, Celtics managing owner Wyc Grousbeck cracked it back open.
“We did have a conversation,” Grousbeck told reporters at a televised news conference. “A brief one.”
And thus Grousbeck opened up Mazzulla, Stevens and the team to innuendo and critique if the Celtics get out of the gate slowly this season.
The Stevens era was far from the most illustrious in the Celtics’ storied history, but his stretch of seven consecutive playoff appearances and three Eastern Conference Finals berths were impressive given the bare cupboard he inherited as a coach. With training camp set to open in a matter of days, the Celtics needed an in-house option and settled on Mazzulla, a Rhode Island native who will get the opportunity to lead the defending East champs in his first NBA head coaching gig.
No pressure, Joe.
Thanks to one rather throwaway line, however, Mazzulla won’t have long before fans start clamoring for a more experienced person in the role. But Stevens, for his part, clearly wants none of that.
“There are a lot of factors involved in why I wouldn’t even want to do that,” Stevens clarified after Grousbeck’s remark. “But I think that, and I’ve told Joe this, I’m going to be there for him without stepping on his toes as much as he needs. He doesn’t need much, I believe in that strongly. Hopefully I can help him with any questions he has as he goes through that.
“Sometimes you just need someone there who’s been there next to you to be able to go in and let your shoulders down and talk about what you’re going through, and hopefully I can be that for him.”
The Celtics open up against the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat, two of the East’s top teams a year ago, so fair or not, how the team performs in those matchups will impact how people judge the man with the whiteboard. Stevens tried to do his best Bizarro Rick Pitino impression and insist he’s not walking through that door if the team flounders. But the door, apparently, isn’t completely closed.