Brad Stevens Should Be Team USA’s Next Head Coach


Earlier this week, Mike Krzyzewski announced that he would step down as Team USA’s Men’s Basketball head coach following the 2016 Olympics. This prompted fans and pundits alike to speculate which coach will take over for Coach K.

The pressure’s on for whomever replaces Krzyzewski, considering him – along with Jerry Colangelo – resuscitated United States men’s basketball after their Olympic squad lost to Argentina in the 2004 Olympics – when the team returned home with a mere bronze.

Since Krzyzewski took over, Team USA has gone 75-1, and has won every FIBA World Championship and Olympic Gold (for basketball, that is). The United States doesn’t want to see their unequivocally best Olympic team return to the dark days of early 2000’s dysfunction, thus, the next pick needs to be able to command the respect of his players and prove capable of defeating the world’s best squads.

The obvious choice to replace Coach K would be San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, but everybody’s dark horse is our very own, Brad Stevens.

When asked what he’d say if he was offered the job, Stevens – without skipping a beat – responded “You say ‘yes’ before they get the question out of their mouths.” While it’d be a no-brainer for him to take the job for the sake of furthering his career, it’d also be a no-brainer for Team USA to select him for a few reasons.

Brad Stevens Is Only 39 Years Old

Some people probably think Stevens’ age is an excuse NOT to select him, however, by the time 2020 rolls around – which would hypothetically be his first Olympics coaching experience – he’d be 44 years old. This is roughly the same age Barack Obama was when he took office.

So if 44 is old enough to run this country, shouldn’t it also be old enough to coach this country’s basketball team? By that point, Stevens would undoubtedly be older than any NBA player (which isn’t the case right now), plus having him start at that age would mean that he would get to develop a long-lasting rapport with the team’s younger players.

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While Popovich may be the best coach in the world and thus, the most deserving of the job, the problem is that he’s 66 years old, which is just two years younger than Coach K. He’s not going to want to coach the team into his 80’s, so it’d make more sense to choose a coach who is guaranteed to remain coaching for the foreseeable future.

Stevens Is Respected By His Players And The League Alike

This is not to say Popovich isn’t well-respected. In fact, after Coach K, Pop is probably the most respected coach in all of basketball. Stevens isn’t too far behind, however.

In one of Zach Lowe’s podcasts this summer, Lowe asked Wizards forward Jared Dudley which coach he’d most want to play for, and Dudley instantly brought up Brad Stevens. He relayed to Lowe that there’s this positive “buzz” circulating around the league regarding Stevens.

"I’ve been hearing great things about Brad Stevens – that’s the buzz going around the league now. Players, ex-players. I played with Jerryd Bayless, who played with him. Just some guys that have played with him. He obviously back then was a rookie coach, but he was coaching like a vet. He knew when to give rest to the guys; not to be in practice too long; his Xs and Os; his confidence he instilled in players – he was playing a lot of different guys. He just knew it. Some people just get it at a young age. As you saw with (Steve) Kerr, he had a great team, but Kerr got it. He knows when to make adjustments. He knows. I keep hearing the buzz on (Stevens) a lot. He’d definitely be in my top two or three (coaches to play for).”"

Dudley’s endorsement reflects the league’s perception of Stevens among players. But it doesn’t stop there as it appears he’s equally popular among NBA executives as well; in this year’s General Manager survey, Brad Stevens’ name popped up three times: once in the “Coach With Best In-Game Adjustments” category, again for “Which Coach Who Runs The Best Offense”, and lastly for “Which Coach Has The Best Defensive Schemes”. While Stevens did not receive the most votes for any of the aforementioned categories, it’s noteworthy his votes didn’t come from Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge, considering GM’s couldn’t vote for their own players, teams or coaches.

International Basketball Requires Outside-The-Box Thinking and Stevens Knows How To Adjust

Team USA has largely dominated international basketball, but the direction the modern NBA’s currently going was actually influenced by the European play-style (in addition to South American). Stretch-fours and extra-passes are two prevalent elements in today’s game that were inspired by European play.

International squads use a ton of unorthodox tactics – especially against superior talent – to give them a competitive advantage, primarily derived by the creation of mismatches. These tactics may come in the form of four-guard lineups or even three-big lineups, depending on the weaknesses of their opponents. In order to combat such tactics, head coaches need to first recognize when they’re in-use, and then determine the best method to stifle it.

As noted on the GM Survey, Stevens is elite at in-game adjustments. The way he approaches the game is wildly methodical as each substitution he makes serves a calculated purpose. He promptly makes the requisite reads on opposing teams to determine which roster configuration is best-suited to stop the opposing team.

Stevens is also highly creative, as he too, will resort to bizarre tactics to break down opposing defenses. A big reason the Celtics were unexpectedly competitive last season was due to their ability to play small-ball. This was exhibited by the efficacy of their really small lineups, which often deployed Jae Crowder at center. Versatile players like Crowder will be a growing breed in the NBA (see: Draymond Green, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo), considering today’s game requires positional flexibility.

As international teams continue to improve, in addition to continuing to set the standard for modern basketball, Team USA’s future success will be contingent on how well they can adjust to their opponents’ unorthodox tactics. Stevens has illustrated a knack at finding outside-the-box solutions to compensate for his own team’s weaknesses. If he could turn a Celtics squad devoid of an all-star into a playoff team, imagine what he could do with a team entirely comprised of all-stars?

From a selfish point-of-view, having Stevens coach Team USA would give the Celtics an (unfair?) advantage in free agency, as Stevens would be surrounded by superstars virtually every summer. This could be a very good thing for the future of Celtics basketball.

Next: Expect RJ Hunter To Play Regular Minutes This Season

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