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Adam Himmelsbach

Q&A: Former Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry discusses Irving, Hayward, Tatum and Brown

Micah Shrewsberry worked closely with Jaylen Brown.Jim Davis/Globe Staff file/Globe Staff

After spending the last six years as one of Brad Stevens’s top assistants with the Celtics, Micah Shrewsberry is leaving to take a similar role at Purdue. This week he spoke to the Globe about a variety of topics. Here are his thoughts about some of Boston’s current players.

Q. You helped coach Gordon Hayward at Butler. Obviously it’s been an unfulfilling start for him in Boston, mostly due to his injury. What do you think the past two years have been like for him?

A. I know it’s been hard. It’s definitely not what you envision when you choose a place and now you’re finally there and you get injured, and it takes a while to get back. Knowing Gordon, I think it just really drives him. When people doubt him, I think he gets better.


Related: ‘He really beat himself up.’ Former Celtics assistant opens up about Brad Stevens’s trying year

I don’t want to put any expectations on him, but I think next year will be a year for him to really show who he is and who people were excited about. People don’t realize how good of a player Gordon is. It gets lost in the shuffle because of what’s happened the last two years. But he’s a really good player. I think he’s just itching to prove that and itching to prove people wrong and itching to put his stamp on the organization.

Q. How would you describe the experience of coaching Kyrie Irving?

A. To just see some of the stuff he does up close, sometimes you have to get out of fan mode and go into coach mode, because he can do things that regular guys can’t do. Then the way he goes about his business every day, he comes in and gets his work in the weight room, or his conditioning, or his shooting and ballhandling. His everyday motor for doing those things to make himself better or keep himself at that level, that’s what you see the best of the best do.


Q. Did you talk to him after the season ended?

A. I was in the video room when he came by and turned down the hall and went down to Danny [Ainge’s] office [for his exit interview]. And then when I was sitting in my office on his way back, he saw me as he was leaving and he stopped and came in and just thanked me for the year and told me good luck at Purdue.

He was happy for my situation and was happy for me. He said, “I know this is what you wanted, so I’m happy for you.” So that was nice of him to do that and say that. That meant a lot.

Q. How do you think the last two weeks of the season affected him?

A. He never really let on how tough it was. He just always talked about the next game. That’s how we kept it. We wanted to get to the next game and hope the next game would be the one to get us back on track.

Q. You worked closely with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in particular. How has Jaylen grown since he arrived?

A. I think he’s continuously tried to add little things to his game. It might not be noticeable, but he’s doing it in flashes, and I think it’ll go from a flash to a habit. He loves to work, loves to get in the gym and stay in the gym.


He’ll jump into different groups. Let’s say Gordon and Semi [Ojeleye] are working on different reads, JB will just ask to jump in. Or if Terry [Rozier] is working on something, he may say, “Hey, T-Ro, can I work with you?” He’s just kind of adding little bits at a time and still he’s constantly learning.

Q. Did you have to give him some extra encouragement when he had a slow start this season?

A. Yeah, I did, because he’s hard on himself. His confidence was probably shook, because he wasn’t playing great and he wanted to really come out and make a difference. He started pressing a little bit.

You don’t have to say much to him, but he really stepped back and saw what things needed to be done and how he could change it, and he went out and did it.

When he moved to the bench, he never complained about it. He was just about the team. I’m sure it might have been upsetting but he never let that be known.

Q. What changed for him later in the season?

A. He kept it simple and played off other guys and found different ways to be successful, or how he could interact with different guys on the floor better. We needed him to get to the basket and he got his transition baskets or drives from the perimeter, and in the playoffs he really focused on his free throws, so that gave him more confidence to get to the basket.


Q. Tatum comes across as so mild-mannered. How did you gauge his fire and intensity?

A. He’s quiet, but he opens up once he feels comfortable and knows you have his best interests at heart. I constantly say to him that he still needs to be more vocal, to let his feelings known a bit. That’s something I think he needs to keep working on.

He has an engaging personality, and guys like and respect him, and I think him using his voice is going to be of even greater benefit as he continues to step into a bigger and bigger role.

Q. After his great rookie year, expectations surged entering this season. Did that seem to weigh on him?

A. I think his expectations for himself were high. He puts a lot on himself. And then the expectations for our team were really high. I think the pressure probably did get to him at times.

But he never really panicked. Even when things weren’t going great, when he’d go through a shooting slump or something or there was a chance for his confidence to waver, he kept it consistent.

And opponents were gunning for him this year. I thought people were taking the challenge to him. That’s something he’s going to have to learn from. The best players are going to get the best shot from the best defenders. So, be ready.


This is probably his first time going through it at this level. You’re going to get some guys that are trying to prove a point.

Q. Can Tatum and Brown both become All-Stars?

A. I think they can be. They’re going to continue to get better. They make plays for each other sometimes and you can see the flashes of it. And the more they put that together, the more they can use each other and play off each other and play off the other guys that fit around them, the more the team is going to have success. And the more success we have as a team, that’s when those accolades come.

Q. You coached with Stevens at Butler; what’s something different you learned from him during this second stint together?

A. The amount of preparation, the way he goes about it, and to see it more up close.

In college, there’s a lot of time we’re apart and you don’t really see Brad’s preparation going into a game. But to see how he goes on these quick turnarounds when you’re playing a game and flying to the next game, he doesn’t waste time.

The moments that are open he uses to get ready for the next game while still being locked in on the game that is about to happen that afternoon. That stuff is amazing to me.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.