The Atlantic Division Coaching Circle

By Zach Wilson

Do you know that group of dads that convenes in the middle of the court once or twice a week? Crack open a couple cold ones, talk about their kids’ sports teams, but ultimately, they all have one goal in mind: take an hour’s leave from the hectic demands of their families inside the house.

That’s how I picture the head coaches of the Atlantic Division. A few dads are new to the neighborhood, one has been around for quite a while, and the last has only lived there for a couple years, but has already made a huge impression on the rest of the neighbours.

Either way, this neighborhood seems to be the cream of the crop. All the parents have been quite successful in their professional lives, and their kids are slowly growing into very respectable young men and women.

I don’t know if we’ve ever seen a collection of neighbours with so much testosterone, and these meetings in the courts could begin to get testy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Dads of Atlantic Avenue!

Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens is the longest tenured Atlantic division coach. Entering his eighth season as head coach of the Celtics, the man who seems like he lacks human emotions is often looked at as one of the top coaches in the league.

Stevens is the dad who has owned his house forever, keeps it clean as can be, and no one in the neighbourhood ever has any complaints about him or his family. When every other parent is bragging about their kid’s three-touchdown game, or highlight filled weekend, Stevens just stands and nods as his son’s no hitter goes un-talked about.

After taking an extremely young Boston team, lead by Jayson Tatum, who is still only 19, Stevens was looked at as an extremely valuable asset. As much as he most definitely was (and still is) a fantastic coach, the takes being thrown out were scorching hot—including this tweet from editor-in-chief at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver:

Stevens is still quite young for an NBA coach at only 44 years old (despite being able to pass for an underaged student trying to purchase alcohol). He’s adapted well to the league’s new style of play is well-trained in his X’s and O’s. Stevens is commonly known for his creativity and out-of-timeout plays. Boston’s 2018 playoff run featured some highlights, including these gems in the Celtics’ second-round matchup against the 76ers:

Stevens’ most difficult task this season will be working in the chemistry of four all star caliber players. There has been no signs of animosity between this Boston core, in fact I would say there have been signs of the opposite. But if Tatum continues to progress into the best player on the roster, Brown continues his ascent to All-Star level, and Hayward, if he’s back, stays healthy, Stevens could have four All-Star-caliber players on his hand.

It is extremely unlikely that four players from the same team get selected as All-Stars, which means one or two of them will have to take a backseat. The easiest answers are Hayward and Brown, as they are probably the weaker offensive players of the four. However, if Hayward picks up his player option, he could be playing for a contract this season, and Brown is only 24 himself, still looking to play his way into All-Star recognition.

This is a bit of a role reversal. Typically, Stevens is tasked with bringing the best out of young, developing rosters. Now, he has to sort out the details and divide touches amongst an extremely talented roster. (Not to mention their best option at center may be having Kemba stand on Tatum’s shoulders to protect the rim.)

Early in his NBA career, Stevens was quickly crowned one of the best coaches in the league. He has continued to live up to that title, but if Boston can’t make the Finals with the currently constructed roster, it will be interesting to see if the public opinion on him starts to shift. I can’t see Stevens moving out of his three-bedroom home anytime soon. He has the potential to be a lifer there. In a way, he’s like a dad to the group of dads, and the community would not be the same without him.

Nick Nurse

Raptors' Nick Nurse wins Eastern Conference coach of the month -

Even though Nurse is still very new to the neighborhood, he remains the second-longest tenured resident of Atlantic Avenue. Nurse came in and made an immediate impact on the outlook of not just the neighborhood, but the whole city. He added a driveway to an already-beautiful house, which pushed his place over market value. Oddly enough, that driveway is in a contemporary in Los Angeles now, but the point still stands: Nick’s house is a great one.

The opposite of Stevens, Nurse is as animated as can be. Nurse constantly runs up and down the sidelines, making an array of facial expressions, and even sometimes getting involved in the kids’ games, which makes Stevens and his personal fanbase extremely angry.

Nurse has only been a head coach in the NBA for two seasons, and has a Larry O’Brien, and a Coach of the Year award to show for it. Like Stevens, Nurse has been crowned early in his career as one of the best coaches in the league. Nurse does have more to proof to cement his place in that conversation, but it is important to not make early assumptions, as some did with Coach Stevens.

Nurse entered the league as an offensive genius, and was famously known for reinventing the Raptors offense in 2017, leading to their first place finish in the regular season. Even though the Raptors still have an effective offense, Nurse has shown his expertise on the defensive end of the floor as well by implementing a variety of zones, man coverages, and even some “janky” defensive schemes, as Stephen Curry would call them.

Nick Nurse recently got a well-deserved extension to remain in Toronto. I know Nurse and his entire Toronto family are hoping to adopt from Greece next year, but for this season, Nurse will remain as energetic as ever and will likely control the conversation during the majority of the dad-gatherings.

Doc Rivers

Have you ever moved out of a neighbourhood, or city, just to miss it so much that you had to move back? Well that’s Doc Rivers… sort of. This will be Doc’s tenth year living on Atlantic Avenue, but this time in a different house.

Doc (or should I say Glenn) Rivers is technically the old man on the block. As someone who coached the Boston Celtics for nine years, Rivers is quite familiar with the Atlantic division. However, Atlantic Avenue has changed quite a bit since the last time Rivers coached in the division. In his final season in Boston, the Knicks finished second in the East, and the 76ers and Raptors were well outside of the playoff conversation.

As much as Rivers is respected within the circle of dads, they also understand that he has his flaws. Rivers has won an NBA championship, and Coach of the Year award, but blowing multiple 3–1 leads does not sit well with everyone.

It often seems as though the biggest issue with Rivers’ teams is chemistry and players not understanding their roles. His son, whose job it is to take out the garbage, cleans the dishes. His daughter, who was supposed to clean her room, dusted the piano, and when he thought his wife was making dinner, it turns out he was supposed to.

Everyone on the block is aware of his chemistry struggles, but it does not take away from how smart of a tactician he is. You don’t maintain a position as a head coach for over 20 years by being bad at your job.

Between Rivers, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons, Philadelphia has created an elite group of voices, and the soundbites should be atop the league.

The basketball team on the other hand? Who knows. The talent is certainly there, and on all three levels: they have strong management, an experienced coaching staff, and a solid roster, which typically makes for a pretty good situation.

However, Philly hasn’t necessarily earned the reputation of a pretty good situation. Almost all of their money is allocated towards four players, and their contracts range from slight to egregious overpays. This is the first year of Morey and Rivers though, so I am willing to give it some time. Listen, I’ve written more on the 76ers over the past week, then I have talked to my mother, so if you want to read more on them and their interesting situation from me, just click here.

Tom Thibodeau

Does Tom Thibodeau Fit In The Modern NBA?

After some time off, the oldest man of the group is back in action! Tom Thibodeau is oldest amongst the circle of father’s, and certainly the loudest. He is not afraid to implement his seniority and his “old-head” mentality.

Right when his kids think they’re done with their chores, Thibs has a list of 30 more for them to get done. Before you know it, his kids have done 44 of a potential 48 tasks and are too burnt out to go play with their friends.

It takes a team with a certain mentality to thrive under Thibodeau. The young group in Minnesota didn’t take to him well, which I think has left people with a sour taste in their mouth when discussing Coach Thibs. It’s easy to forget that he coached a couple great Chicago teams to back-to-back first place finishes, and if it weren’t for a terrible injury to Derrick Rose, he may have a big, shiny ring on his finger.

Like Nurse, Thibs is quite animated to say the least. But not in a “kid in a candy store” type of way, more like the angry Italian dad in a 90’s sitcom.

I’ll tell you what could have been made into a televsion show. Does anyone remember the Jimmy Butler situation in Minnesota? Or was that 30 years ago with how long 2020 has felt? Well, whenever it was, Thibs was the coach during that whole fiasco. I’m not here to debate the importance and extent of intensity at practice, but it will be interesting to see what Thibs and the Knicks’ front office manage to do with his second go-around at coaching a young core.

One thing Thibs doesn’t have in common with his fellow fathers is a nice property to work with. Where the other dads have been refining their homes, Thibs is moving into a house that has inexplicably been on fire for nearly two decades straight. He purchased it as a project, and his goal is to have that place built up to be the nicest house on the block. After all, it’s right on the corner where the sun hits juuuust right; the best location in the neighborhood.

Every team in this division aside from the Knicks is not only projected to make the playoffs, but they are all believed to be around the top competing for the conference crown. All year when these men meet up to discuss politics, and sports, and whatever else old men talk about, Thibs will likely be showing up with an angry face. Hopefully he can find some bright spots in Barrett, and Robinson and whoever the Knicks take with the eighth pick, or his house could take a bit longer to spiff-up, while the rest of the neighbourhood continues to shine bright.

Steve Nash

How does MFA like Steve Nash's suit last night (x-post /r/nba) :  malefashionadvice

The young-buck, the new guy, the first-time home-buyer has made his way to the block! Steve Nash has a pretty good property to work with for his first home. A couple weeds here and there, including a couple that have the potential to quickly grow out of control, but if you work at them early and stay on top of them, you could have potentially the best garden in the neighborhood. Also, Nash’s father-in-law, Mike is moving in with them, and he’s a seasoned veteran when it comes to keeping a house. (Realistically, Mike D’Antoni could deserve his own welcome to the Atlantic Division. This group is so stacked.)

Brooklyn enters the season with a very different look from last year, and it could get even more foreign depending on what they do this offseason. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving making a return to the hardwood, Brooklyn has one of the most talented teams in the league, but there are also a lot of question marks to sort through. Who’s going to be on the team? Can Kyrie and KD keep their heads on straight? How will Kyrie and Kevin play coming back from injury? Who starts and who comes off the bench? Must I keep going?

It’s safe to say Nash has a lot on his plate for his first coaching gig, which would well explain why he brought in a couple familiar faces to help him coach this team to victory. With D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire on the bench alongside Nash, I think it’s safe to say that the Nets will play in some part like the Seven Seconds or Less Suns.

There’s obviously some question marks surrounding how Nash got chosen for this gig, but make no mistake, he didn’t just choose this house; the house, the garden, and the driveway all had a very big say in getting him to move.

There should also be no question if the man is qualified enough. Sure, he may never have been a head coach before, but Nash is highly recognized as one of the smartest players of all time, and has spent multiple years helping the players in Golden State.

I don’t know if Nash will have much to say in the circle of dads; he only recently moved in and got invited out. It will be interesting to see who joins the circle on any given night. It might be Steve, Mike, Amar’e, Kyrie, Kevin…it’s a mystery who will walk out that front door to hang out with the fathers after dinner.

Nash has a big task on his hands. As a head coach, you always want a talented team, but that comes with big responsibility—especially when your talent comes in the form of a couple guys who are not shy to be vocal about their feelings.

Hopefully Nash can stay in the neighbourhood for a while. Maybe Mike will just take over the house after a year, maybe Steve will get a ring and be the king of the court, with this team and situation the possibilities are endless.

The Atlantic Division will be the most exciting division in the league, and part of the reason are these five dads right here. Every time two of these teams match up, it will be a battle. Hopefully a fight doesn’t break out in the middle of the street and the dads can keep it civil as they try to one-up each other for the Daddy O’Brien trophy.

Published by Zach Wilson

A writer who is passionate about sports. @zachwilson50 on both twitter and instagram.

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