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The Real Genius Of Bill Belichick, Plus Takeaways From The Celtics' Streak23:13

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches his team play during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches his team play during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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In today's episode of Season Ticket, host Chris Gasper (@cgasper) and Joe Sullivan discuss an underappreciated aspect of Bill Belichick's genius, which is on full display this season. Then, they discuss the biggest takeaways from the Celtics' 16-game winning streak, which ended on November 22nd against the Miami Heat, including the impressive youngsters and a locked-in Kyrie Irving.


Interview Highlights

On Bill Belichick's mastery at adjusting personnel on the fly

Chris Gasper: I think we all can understand and recognize the brilliance and genius of Tom Brady. I'm not sure we all understand and recognize the brilliance and genius of Bill Belichick. You have a lot of people who subscribe to the axiom, "In Bill I Trust," and that sort of means that Bill Belichick is never wrong. But I actually think what makes Belichick so good—and this offseason the Patriots had is an example of this—is that when he is wrong he's able to adapt and adjust and go to a Plan B or Plan C and execute that better than most teams can execute their Plan A ... I think people get sort of confused and they say, "Well, you know, Bill always planned for the idea that Kony Ealy (who is the guy that they acquired in the offseason who never played a regular season snap for them) wasn't going to work out." It's like, no, he was hoping that guy would work out. But when he doesn't work out they find another way, whether it's rookie Deatrich Wise, whether it's moving Kyle Van Noy up on the line to get some pass rush. Ultimately, isn't that what coaching is? Coaching is getting the most out of the talent you have.

"He's able to adapt and adjust and go to a Plan B or Plan C and execute that better than most teams can execute their Plan A."

Chris Gasper, on Bill Belichick

Joe Sullivan: There are so many coaches who get stuck in a certain way of playing. And this is true across all sports. They know a certain way to coach that they're comfortable with and they don't adapt. And also, in football, we see it all the time when coaches live with their mistakes because they invested in them, whether it's a high draft pick or a high caliber free agent. Belichick doesn't put up with that.

Chris Gasper: And he does it to such a great point that people just assume it's all part of his master plan. And that takes away credit that he deserves for what he's doing because it's actually harder to adjust on the fly than it is to say, "Well, you know, this is all part of my master plan that Kony Ealy didn't work out and I knew that I was going to have this guy." It's like, no, [Belichick is] looking at the situation in real time and saying, "How do I fix it?" Nobody fixes it better than Belichick. That's incredible.

On Bill Belichick's ability to develop different game plans on a weekly basis

Joe Sullivan: It's not the same offensive philosophy every game. It's not the same defensive philosophy. Each game they adapt in all aspects of the operation and it's part of their greatness.

Chris Gasper: Yeah, they are a what's called a "game plan-specific" team in the NFL. There are a lot of teams that say, "This is our system on offense and defense and we're going to run it against everybody." The Patriots are not that way. The Patriots are sort of like an amoeba. They will morph into whatever they need to be that week against that opponent. If the opponent has a weakness in run defense ... they'll exploit that weakness. If the opponent has a situation where what they do best is run the ball, Bill will make sure they take away the run and try and force them to pass. And that's not easy to do, to change things up every week. You have to build a culture where people are into that and they're willing to adjust, willing to adapt, willing to do something different ... And there are times they go into a game and the other team will do something they hadn't planned for, hadn't practiced for, that week and say, "Oh, we didn't expect this, but we have a play that can counter this. We haven't run it this year but we ran that play in 2012."

Joe Sullivan: You can't do that unless you have continuity of staff ... and that comes from the winning. The staff's not going to stay together if they don't win. It builds upon itself.

On the Celtics' 16-game winning streak

Chris Gasper: The Celtics 16-game winning streak ended in Miami on Wednesday night. They dropped a 104-98 decision to the Miami Heat. And, when you look at that game and that incredible winning streak, I do think that something Brad Stevens had been saying all along came to pass in that game: this winning streak [covered] up some of [their] flaws. And I think you saw that in that last game against Miami where they sort of waited until the last minute to turn it on defensively, and offensively and they couldn't pull this one out.

On why coach Brad Stevens may not be upset his team's winning streak finally ended

Chris Gasper: I don't think Brad was exactly broken up that this winning streak got snapped because it might be easier now for him to be able to get these guys to implement what he wants to implement. When you're a coach, sometimes it's easier to get your guys to change their habits or change their ways when they've lost. Because if you're winning, everybody feels good and they say, "Why would we change a thing? We're winning!"

On the Celtics' flaws

Joe Sullivan: The problem has been at the beginning of games, falling behind so quickly and by large margins sometimes. The word [Brad] used was "focus," that they're lacking focus in the beginning of games. That's a real hard term and concept to get your coaching expertise around. How do you get people to focus more at the beginning of the game?

Chris Gasper: You lose! You lose a game and, all of a sudden, they're focused on winning ... I think they got in the habit of just [turning] it on for ten minutes [at the end of the game]. And I think Brad's message, like most coaches, would be that we need to put together a full 48-minute game.

"Kyrie Irving already has grown as a player with the Boston Celtics."

Joe Sullivan

On the main takeaways from the Celtics' winning streak

Chris Gasper: The biggest takeaway for me from the 16-game winning streak would be the young guys, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They stepped up so many times in big moments, in fourth quarters ... They've become part of the core now. They're part of the championship core. And I think both of those guys are ahead of schedule. You feel like you can now rely on those guys.

Joe Sullivan: To me, Kyrie and his style of play has been a revelation. I was really concerned that [he] was a selfish offensive player who could ruin the great chemistry that Brad Stevens likes to develop with his teams and that has not happened.

Chris Gasper: No it hasn't. And I think he's found a nice equilibrium here where he gets other guys involved in the game. He defers a little bit. And then in the fourth quarter, when it becomes harder to score and everybody elevates their game, that's when Kyrie is more aggressive and assertive ... Kyrie Irving already has grown as a player with the Boston Celtics.

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