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Q&A: Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens

Danny Ainge

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Danny Ainge

Q: Any common themes come up when you checked around on him?

A: “His personal integrity and his intelligence and work ethic and communication skills. And those really showed, when you watched [Butler] play. I mean, when people say all those things, they just confirm what everybody can already see by watching him on the sideline, by watching his teams play and how they execute and compete.”

Q: He said culture is the most important thing. How important is that in the NBA?

A: “I’ve never been around a coach that didn’t value culture. It’s just something that you’re always weighing, because you can find 12 players at Butler and have a great culture, but they don’t have enough talent to win. You can also be a coach at Butler and have a great culture and overachieve and beat teams that have more McDonald’s All-Americans. With character and culture, you can overachieve. In the NBA, it’s pretty much proven to this extent that there are teams that can overachieve in a great culture. And I think culture is crucial. But it’s always a balance of those players that bring great character and integrity and work ethic to the game vs. talent. And often you’re making choices like that. If you don’t have enough talent, you don’t have a chance, either.”

Q: He’s known as calm, measured, but people close to him say that there’s a burning competitiveness inside him. What have you seen?

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A: “Oh, he’s extremely competitive. Sometimes people can misinterpret competitiveness by facial expressions and demonstrative behavior and yelling and screaming and throwing coats. He has a great control of his emotions, a great temperament, and is not nearly as demonstrative. But he is extremely competitive. It’s very easy to see when you talk basketball with him and when you watch his teams — how hard they compete and how they probably overachieved, like him as a player, from his talent level to what he was able to accomplish. He’s a guy that maximized his talents.”

Q: He’s known not to handle losses well, and he’ll have to endure more losses at this level simply because of the volume of games. Any concern on your part?

A: “Listen, it’s different — the amount of games, not just losses, but just the amount of games you play and the preparation of an 82-game schedule vs. a 32-game schedule. It’s an enormous difference. There’s going to be an adjustment for him, his family, and just the lifestyle of NBA vs. college. There’s some benefits that you don’t have to recruit, but you play a lot of games. And the kind of people and the age of the players you’re coaching are different. There’s definitely going to be an adjustment period for him, but I think he’s got really good support around him in his staff and support from management and ownership. I think that it will be worth that adjustment period for all of us.”

Q: A lot is made of his skills with analytics. How much of that is true, how much of that is overplayed?

A: “The intangible side of what he does, and the tangibles — his work ethic, his study, his intelligence — far outweighs the analytics side. Everybody has some form of numbers and you can get into a big debate as to how much is really valuable and how much is more valuable than what any other team has. Who Brad is as a person, that’s his greatest asset. His own personal integrity, his ability to develop relationships with people, who he is, that far outweighs the tools that he uses as a coach. If he didn’t have any analytics, he’d still be a fantastic coach.”

Q: You said at media day that you’ve been so impressed with him since he’s been here that you wanted to give him a four-year contract extension. Why?

A. “Well, just watching him work and communicate with his players. You can tell the players really respect him. They respect his knowledge and his work ethic and how genuine he is. They respect his integrity and what kind of person he is. He’s not a guy that’s just trying to be your friend. He’s a guy that’s a coach. He’s trying to teach you how to be better, and the things he says are legitimate and players receive them not just as coach-talk, but real things. And the players respect that, because he puts in the time to study and learn who these guys are as players.”

Q: Anything else?

A: “The thing that I’ve learned most about Brad since he has become the coach is that maybe his greatest asset is his wife, Tracy. She’s pretty amazing, also. Getting to know her better, you can see his wisdom. He’s got a pretty good partner there.”

Baxter Holmes can be reached at baxter.holmes@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes
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