There’s a stigma in the NBA that great college coaches don’t make good NBA coaches. This has been proven for the last 20 years. If you look at several of the greats who have come out of the college arena to try to take on NBA teams, they have largely failed.
Look at John Calipari. Look at Rick Pitino.
There is a new coach this year for the Boston Celtics who came out of Butler, a small mid-major team. He was recruited very highly, as a top-notch recruit. He’s young, in his mid-thirties.
And he has proven the skeptics wrong.
He took over a team that had just traded away all of its stars. It was really in the midst of rebuilding. He took a team that everyone expected to be miserable and in the cellar of the standings and has taken that team to new heights. They are a .500 team right now and at the top of their division, doing so much better than anyone expected. Not only that, but their one remaining All-Star was injured and has not been playing all year.
Why is this? What is it that’s different about Brad Stevens than the other coaches who have come out of the college ranks?
Brad Stevens has humble confidence. All of the other big-name coaches who have come out of the college ranks have come out with exactly that: a big name. They think they have arrived at their rightful place when they make the leap to the NBA. They’ve already had million-dollar contracts. They have been celebrities, by and large, for long periods of time already.
Brad Stevens is different. He’s a young, up-and-coming coach. He’s hungry. He’s passionate. He loves the game of basketball and he respects the game and the greats.
One of the stories is that Brad, as soon as he took over for the Celtics, reached out to Bob Cousy, one of the late greats, to pick his brain and to ask for advice.
Brad Stevens is known for being a player’s coach. He immediately reached out to the one All-Star he had in order to build a relationship and get his advice on how to be successful in the NBA.
All of these things make for somebody who had the confidence to make the jump to coach the professionals, to take the next step in his career, and to be a leader in one of the storied franchises in NBA history. At the same time, he is an individual who had the humility to listen to others: to pick the brain of his general manager, to pick the brain of those who weren’t even part of the organization but were around it and part of the legacy of the organization.
That’s why Brad Stevens is successful. He’s being a true leader. He’s connecting with people. He’s seeking advice. He has a plan. He has a strategy. But he’s also soliciting the input of others, he’s getting them on board, and he’s driving them forward.
Everyone has bought into his plan because he didn’t come in as the Answer Man, as the person with all the answers who needs to be listened to and it will be his way or the highway. That is humble confidence at its core.