AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Much of Brad Stevens' Sunday night was similar to any other night that he's coached a basketball team over the past six years.
The tailored suit was stylish and he still maintained that boyish, youthful look on the sidelines.
The stoic pacing with arms crossed and an occasional encouraging word for a player coming to the bench were the same mannerisms that Hinkle Fieldhouse faithful had seen a ton of times.
The enthusiastic clapping when a player exerted the proper effort was certainly a Stevens trademark that he still possesses.
The attention to detail was still prominent, as he instructed his center (Kelly Olynyk) to back up two steps while applying some token pressure late in the game.
Coming out of halftime, Stevens' team ran a set play to perfection and scored. That was certainly a familiar sight.
Even after seeing his team dominated en route to a 15-point deficit, as it climbed back into the contest, you could almost sense that the 37-year-old coach was going to figure out how to tug on the proper string just enough to get his squad over the top and win. Because that is what Brad Stevens does. He wins.
But the truth of the matter was that this night wasn't the same. And though I sincerely hope that it will be at some point in time, it probably won't be for quite a while.
Watching Stevens guide the Boston Celtics instead of Butler was plain weird. And watching him lose – again – was even stranger.
The Celtics dropped their third game in as many outings on Sunday 87-77 to the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills in front of 14,578 fans.
Though Stevens' teams have been competitive, they remain winless. And watching a Brad Stevens-coached group get beat because of poor transition defense (the Pistons held a 19-10 advantage in fast break points), bad execution in the final minutes (Stevens' team turned the ball over 23 times), and generally manhandled along the front line (Detroit outscored Boston 54-38 in points in the paint) is unfathomable until you witness it with your own eyes.
“We can take a piece of these (three) games with us,” Stevens lamented. “I'd like to put it all together, but it's going to be frustrating until we do.”
In Friday's home loss to Milwaukee, Boston allowed a 22-point lead slip away, as the team collapsed and blew a huge lead. That never happened with the Bulldogs.
“It is what it is,” Stevens explained. “We've got to figure out a way, whether its personnel, or whether it's something that we're doing to be more consistent.”
When Butler did lose, Bulldog fans had faith that Stevens would find a solution to whatever temporarily ailed his guys. But in the NBA, there is little time to find solutions and implement much change.
Following the defeat, the Celtics players quickly showered and packed bags, sauntered out of the locker room, where a couple spoke with their agents (Stevens is immersed in a different world, for sure), and then hopped on a bus to get on a waiting plane because tip-off in Memphis was less than 24 hours away.
Though he's coached just three regular season games, Stevens has already learned (sort of) that though he may be frustrated following another defeat, dwelling on it serves little purpose.
“Well, there are 79 games left,” Stevens said. “It's a lot different. But I don't deal with it well.”
The reality of this situation is that the Celtics are in rebuilding mode and whatever Stevens can get accomplished this year in the form of measurable success is a bonus.
After losing 49 games in six years with the Bulldogs, Stevens may lose that many (if not more) over the next five months with his hard working, but talent-challenged club.
“There's no team that I've played yet, where I haven't been like 'Wow, they can do a lot,'” Stevens said with his voice trailing off.
Stevens seemingly was grasping, and that was the strangest sight of all.