I hope you don’t mind Parquet Post went on hiatus last week. We’re trying to sell a house and buy a house, all in anticipation of a second daughter and some potential professional changes. It’s a wild time, so thanks for bearing with me in the offseason. Training camp is almost upon us.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming …
When I was talking to Brad Stevens about relationship-building with his players for the Globe Magazine piece, this struck me: “I want to make sure that I know these guys as well as I can. I want to make sure they know that we have a real interest in them on and off the court. I think maybe to me that’s the part I enjoy the most — the relationships that you have after you’ve coached them or after you’ve worked together with other coaching members of your staff, all that stuff. That’s what makes it go for me. I enjoy that more than anything else, looking back at those things. Even if they’re only here a month or two, it’s fun to have that relationship still.”
When he mentioned his ties to players who passed through after only a few weeks, it made me think of Tayshaun Prince, because I’ve heard Stevens rave about him in the past, even though Prince only appeared in nine games over his five-week Celtics tenure during the winter of 2015.
I had Prince on the phone for a story about the Redeem Team, so I asked him about it.
“I’ve been through at least 10 or 11 coaches in my 14-year career,” Prince told Parquet Post. “When you get to a team or a new coach, it doesn’t take long to figure out if he’s a good coach or if he’s an average coach or whatever the case may be. I was there for maybe five weeks, but the minute I walked in that locker room and played a couple games, I knew right away he would be a great coach in this league. As you can see on the sidelines and in his press conferences, he never gets too high, never gets too low, and he’s the same way in the locker room. If there’s chaos in the locker room or if everything’s going great, when you look at him, he’s always the same. He handles things first-class. He’s very poised, and to see that at that level for a college coach coming into the NBA, I knew right away that he would be very successful.”
After joining the Celtics in the January 2015 trade that sent Jeff Green to Memphis for a first-round pick, Prince played well in Boston, helping bridge the gap between Rajon Rondo’s departure earlier that season and Isaiah Thomas’ trade deadline arrival. Prince, of course, was dealt back to Detroit a month later in exchange for Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome. How that team made the playoffs is a minor miracle, but in his short stay, Prince saw the magic at play.
“I tell people this all the time,” added Prince, now 38 years old, “I was there a little bit over a month, and in that short period of time, he was one of my top coaches that I ever played for.”
Prince has played for some of the biggest coaching names of the past few decades: Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown, Flip Saunders and Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, and Mike Krzyzewski’s star-studded USA Basketball staff, which included Mike D’Antoni. His is no small praise.
Part of what makes Stevens so special is his intellectual curiosity, and that too was readily apparent to Prince, who now serves as a special assistant to Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace.
“Not a day went by when he wasn’t asking about something, and it didn’t even have to be about the Pistons teams,” said Prince, who played every game for the 2004 champions in Detroit. “It could have been about what went wrong on one of the worst teams I was on. He wanted to know about every aspect. That’s one thing about him. He’ll definitely ask a ton of questions.
“As a player, you always want to be around a coach who makes you comfortable, asks you questions and values your opinion. A lot of times you get around these coaches who are very talented, but what you say doesn’t mean anything, so it kind of bothers you. You never get that from him. He has an open-door policy, and I say that in every aspect of the imagination.”
As Stevens says, “That stuff’s important.”