Kyrie Irving tried to explain what separates Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during an appearance on J.J. Redick’s podcast Friday.
Toward the end of a wide-ranging conversation that touched on conspiracy theories, Irving’s special skill set and Irving’s departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Redick brought up Stevens.
“What is it that makes him so great?” asked Redick, the Philadelphia 76ers guard. “Because everybody for a couple of years it was like, oh, Brad runs great ATOs — after timeout plays. Like, he’s got great ATOs, great set pieces. Is it in-game stuff, is it discipline, what is it?”
“He brings the ultimate unwavering confidence, yet so chill, but assertive, demanding, but he does it in the just most unique way,” Irving replied. “And it’s like almost bringing college to the NBA. I feel like we’re a very professional team, but the way we run things and the way we demand excellence out of each other is something like being on a college team. Just our film study, our preparation, our walkthroughs, our shootarounds.
“He has adjusted to the NBA life but yet he still remains and has the high-character integrity of being that up-and-coming college coach that he was. And he was great in college, and then made the transition into the league. He didn’t necessarily have the best of teams, but he demanded excellence out of them, and he was always unwavering, he was always chill. And he demands it out of you. I keep saying demands, but… You want to play for him, you want to do it.”
Redick followed up by asking Irving if he had any comparisons for Stevens.
“No. No,” Irving said. “Anybody, no. He’s Brad Stevens. And when you’re doing that, that means you’ve done something special. And he has yet to be on the plateau of a championship winner but he’s definitely on his way.”
Pivoting from the topic of Stevens, Redick asked whether the Celtics are shocked they have compiled an Eastern Conference-best 34-10 record after losing Gordon Hayward to a bad opening-night ankle injury.
“I feel like the value of what each individual brings to the table talent-wise as well as the little things that we all value in order to be on a great team, not a good team,” Irving said. “We want to be a great team, and when we get into situations like that we all understand that this game could change in an instant, and we control that. And Brad’s done a great job of preparing us. Now it’s our job to go out and execute.
“We may not have been shooting well (early during Thursday’s comeback win against Philadelphia). Defensively we were all over the place. You got going. You had seven points in the first like two minutes. Brad doesn’t call timeout. He calls timeout after (Jaylen Brown) loses you again. And it’s 9-2. And then you guys go on this unbelievable run, and Brad’s in there, and he’s just, ‘All right guys, here’s what we’re going to do.’ And you sit back and you listen, and you trust the lineup that he has out there executing at a high level. If we do it possession by possession and we actually control the things that we can control, then we feel like we’ll put ourselves in a great position. That’s how we feel.”
Redick went on to compare the Celtics to the Golden State Warriors in the sense that, “It doesn’t matter what the score is, you guys are going to play a certain way, and you’re going to trust that way of playing on both sides of the ball.”
“Because it will work,” Irving responded. “It will work.”
The two players also discussed Irving’s flat earth thoughts, Redick’s doubts that dinosaurs ever existed, Irving’s interest in spiritual alchemy, and the process Irving went through to develop his rare basketball skills. They even chatted about whether one of the rims the Celtics and 76ers played on in London was crooked, though I don’t know they were serious about that. (After switching hoops at halftime, the Celtics went on a monster run.)
Anyway, it’s an interesting talk worth your time, so go check it out.