The Celtics rocked the NBA on Wednesday when it was announced that Danny Ainge would be retiring from his position as President of Basketball Operations and that head coach Brad Stevens would be elevated to replace Ainge. The Celtics have had three consecutive seasons end in disappointment and a shakeup could help energize the franchise. The question now is who will replace Stevens as coach? A name that should be at the top of the list is Sam Cassell.
Cassell has had a great NBA career, first as a player and more recently as an assistant coach. Cassell won three championships as a player and made one All-Star team. His third championship came as a member of the 2008 Celtics, the franchise’s only title this Century. Since retiring from the NBA in 2009, Cassell has been an NBA assistant coach.
Cassell began his coaching run under Flip Saunders at the Washington Wizards. There, he helped develop John Wall into a multi-time All-Star while also getting an introduction to NBA coaching. In 2014, Cassell joined his former coach, Doc Rivers, with the L.A. Clippers. He has been with Rivers ever since, first in L.A. and now Philadelphia. Through this, he has worked with superstar players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Clippers and budding superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with the 76ers. Cassell has playoff experience with all three franchises he has coached for.
Cassell’s experience working with these stars would be beneficial for the Celtics, who have two young stars of their own in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Superstars drive winning in the NBA and a head coach’s job is to maximize their potential and manage any personality clashes between them. Cassell has been part of that with multiple organizations. He has also watched how Rivers has approached being a head coach and Rivers was the last head coach to win a championship in Boston.
Cassell can relate to Celtics players both as a former player, but also someone who knows the pressure of playing in Boston. Cassell knows what it takes to win a championship and the urgency that the Celtics pursue it. This experience is invaluable. He also has experience developing young players, such as Wall, an area that will be critical for a young Celtics roster.
The Celtics are at a crossroads of sorts. They have two young stars and a couple smaller pieces, but not much else. It is critical that Stevens retool the roster this offseason and also bring in a coach who can both relate directly to players and get the most out of them. Sam Cassell is the man for the job.