Jaylen Brown has a new coach, supporting cast and clean bill of health. He’s ready to come back strong.
In an interview with Marc Spears of The Undefeated, the Celtics’ young All-Star opens up about the team’s summertime facelift. Most of all, he stresses the significance of playing under a Black head coach.
Brown says he told ownership it was important to hire a coach of color to replace Brad Stevens. The Celtics hired Ime Udoka June 28.
“They were on board with it,” he said. “They talked about it. It wasn’t like it was just about being African American. [Udoka is] more than qualified.”
Overall, seven new African-American head coaches were hired this offseason. Brown, who’s a strong leader on social justice matters, says the increased representation is vital. “Whether it was because they were just trying to shut us up, or because they actually believed it was the right thing to do, it don’t matter to me. That representation is important,” he said.
Hiring Udoka wasn’t the only change the Celtics made this summer. Their offseason began with the bombshell announcement that Brad Stevens would replace Danny Ainge as the president of basketball operations. Then free agency was all about shifting the roster.
The Celtics jettisoned Kemba Walker’s contract and acquired veterans Dennis Schroder, Al Horford, Josh Richardson and Enes Kanter. Perhaps most importantly, the Celtics now have financial flexibility entering next summer. They also created a nifty $17.1 million trade exception.
Brown spoke about the importance of changing the team’s culture. “It ain’t just on me and [Jayson Tatum],” he said. “I know that we’re the ones that are in front of the media, but it’s going to be a team effort, and an organization and a coaching effort.”
The 24-year-old forward enjoyed a career season in 2020-21, averaging 24.7 points and 6 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, it ended prematurely. Brown missed the playoffs after suffering a late-season wrist injury. He was also dealing with knee issues.
"My body feels a lot better,” Brown said. “I’m more athletic than I was last season. I had knee problems last year that were lingering and I hope that I won’t have this season.”
The Celtics will need Brown at full strength mentally and physically to run alongside Tatum this season. We’re off to an optimistic start.