ATLANTA -- Throughout the NBA season, players and coaches alike have praised Brad Stevens as one of the up-and-coming great coaches in this league.
Further validation of that came on Tuesday when Stevens was among the top vote-getters for the league’s Coach of the Year award, which went to Golden State’s Steve Kerr. The Warriors set an NBA record for wins (73) in a single season.
Stevens finished sixth in the voting while being selected on 34 ballots, totaling 74 points (5 first-place votes, 10 second-place votes and 19 third-place votes).
Kerr was among a number of coaches this year who praised the job that Stevens has done in Boston. In his third season, Stevens has taken a team that won just 25 games his first year to 48 victories and a No. 5 seed. And remember, Boston did not make any significant roster changes to a club that began the year as the league's fifth-youngest team.
“I think there’s a lot of people who are really worthy of the award,” Kerr said prior to the Celtics snapping Golden State’s NBA-record 54 straight wins at home streak earlier this season. “One being the guy down the hall, Brad Stevens. I think he’s phenomenal. He’s done an incredible job.”
Celtics players offer similar sentiments for Stevens, as well.
“The work he puts in first and foremost, the relationship he has with his players, that goes a long way especially at the professional level,” said Isaiah Thomas. “Everybody respects him; he puts the work in. He’s a great coach but he’s even a better person. He’s very smart; he knows what he’s doing. And when other players say nice things about your coach he must be doing something that’s right.”
But in typical Stevens fashion, he was quick to deflect praise tossed his way.
“First of all, that’s a two-horse race between however they want to divide it between Luke (Walton, who coached the Warriors early in the season when Kerr was recuperating from a back injury) and Steve," Stevens told reporters prior to the award being announced. "And then [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich]. And that’s it."
Popovich was third in the voting. Walton, who led Golden State to an NBA-record 24-0 start while Kerr was out, finished ninth.