Kyrie Irving’s high school coach believes a departure is good for both sides
Kyrie Irving is at it again, a series of enigmatic social media posts turning us into armchair psychologists with no real read on the inner workings of the point guard’s brain. With separate Instagram updates from an offseason trip to Japan that denounced ego and greed, Irving predictably elicited troves of irate comments from Celtics fans still bitter about the team’s second-round playoff flameout, an early postseason exit they blame mostly on Irving, and his (ahem) ego and greed.
Those fans might as well vent their ire online, because it feels increasingly obvious that Irving has played his last game for Boston. Divorces are rarely clean, but as Irving contemplates his future without the Celtics and the Celtics plan theirs without him, this one sure feels both necessary and inevitable. And in the long run, in the eyes of one longtime Irving insider, it will be better for both sides.
Kevin Boyle is one of the premier high school coaches in the country at Montverde Academy in Florida, and he previously coached Irving at St. Patrick’s High School (now known as The Patrick School) in New Jersey. Much as his ultracompetitive high school setting was the perfect scene change for a young Irving, who transferred there as a sophomore after playing a season for a small private school called Montclair Kimberley, so, too, does Boyle see a change as something good now, bringing out the best not only in his former player but in his soon-to-be former NBA team as well.
“Obviously, I think everyone with the Celtics would have liked a better outcome,” Boyle said in a phone interview. “Why were they not Toronto, not able to get to the Final?
“Who knows? But when that happens, and you’re a great player, you come back the next year on a mission, and I would be surprised if Kyrie doesn’t have a career year next year. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Celtics have a great year too.
“I think the Celtics want to prove they can get back to where they were two years ago, with the young guys getting a chance to shine. And Kyrie, he wants to show he’s a championship guard, he’s been in a number of Finals, and remind us, ‘Hey, I can help carry a team.’ ”
Boyle is not pretending to know what Irving is thinking (“That’s something only he can answer”), and as he pulled up to the lot of his school, he was just like the rest of us, scrolling Irving’s Instagram account to catch up his latest moves.
The two don’t keep in regular contact, but if Irving were to end up with the Nets (the current favorite among prognosticators) or the Knicks (the other team closest to his childhood roots), perhaps the two would reconnect more often. If DeAngelo Russell stays with the Nets and Kyrie joins him, Boyle would have coached the New York metropolitan area’s top three guards in high school, as both Russell and Knicks top draft pick RJ Barrett played at Montverde.
It was in a third Instagram post that Irving may have revealed his continuing affinity for that area, posting a charming video from one of the street corners he used to pass to walk to school, complete with a conversation with the crossing guard who still mans the same post. Irving wrote, “Home is where the heart lives and stays!” In the two posts from Japan, he wrote, “Ego has no room between You and Me. We are One!” and “Freedom from greed ensures a peaceful life.”
Making sense of all of it is a job too big for this space, other than to see it as the beginning lines of an inevitable farewell address.
From a report by top NBA insider Jackie MacMullan that Irving did not like living in Boston and has issues with everyone from Celtics coach Brad Stevens to rising star teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, to his own history of making a similarly displeased departure from Cleveland, Irving sure seems to be aiming for a fresh start.
To Boyle, that makes sense. For everyone.
“Obviously the team did not achieve like they would have wanted or he would have wanted,” he said. “They have a terrific coach, a really good GM, really good players. They just didn’t jell.
“I think hopefully everybody takes what they’ve been accountable for and tries to see how they can move forward in their own careers, correct that and go forward. Usually after that, most guys, intelligent people, are going to look at it objectively when they get out of it, think what could I have done differently, and I think they’re all going to have great years.
“I think Boston is going to be happy with their season next year; there’s too much talent there.
“With Kyrie, it’s a balance and it’s hard. You don’t want him to be James Harden and take 30 shots every game, even though he could. They have young guys that got a taste of success [in 2018], and now it’s like, ‘I had two slices of pizza at lunch and now I’m only getting one.’ ”
Such is the conundrum of Irving, whose skill is so great that he could indeed take over most games if he wanted to, but whose penchant to re-prove that point costs his team the benefit of his more valuable talents as a facilitator. In high school, the reverse was true.
“When Kyrie came in, at first, we had Michael Kidd-Gilchrist [a future No. 2 draft pick] and [future UNC guard] Dexter Strickland,” said Boyle. “With their reputations, I remember constantly talking to Kyrie about being aggressive, being confident because they were both tremendous players, and telling him when the game was on the line, and key plays were being made, they should go through you.
“You should be the guy with the ball, making decisions.
“I think at that stage it took a little while, but . . . as a senior, basically he had really taken over, was clearly a step or two ahead of everybody else in high school. He could finish. He’s probably in the argument of the best finisher ever at the basket for a point guard.”
The finish that is coming soon around here (free agency opens at 6 p.m. Sunday) won’t be nearly as pretty as the ones on the court. But in the long run, it has to be best for both sides.