Last June, the Boston Celtics made a huge change by moving their coach, Brad Stevens, into the role of president of basketball operations following the departure of Danny Ainge.
This June, the Celtics are in the NBA Finals, where they will take on the Golden State Warriors, who are in their sixth finals in eight years. It's the young guys against the old dogs. Whatever happens in this series, Boston will be back, this is the start of something very special.
Stevens guided the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals three times in four years and was widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the NBA; meaning that his role change raised a few eyebrows.
Former San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets assistant, Ime Udoka, was his replacement as head coach. Another eyebrow-raising decision given his lack of experience as the main man.
The new president had some big decisions to make regarding the roster he formerly coached. Getting rid of point guard Kemba Walker and his $73m contract was an option, and it materialised on June 18 as he joined the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade involving Al Horford coming to Boston.
There were also decisions to be made regarding Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III. Smart signed a four-year, $76.5m deal and Williams III penned a four-year deal worth $48m.
Stevens placed his faith in Smart to run the point and he has been a blessing there this season, being named Defensive Player of the Year, the first point guard to win the award since Gary Payton in 1996.
Getting a deal for Smart sealed has been huge, because after this season he would have been one of the most sought-after players in 2022 free agency.
Williams III, on the other hand, has been excellent. He averaged 10 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 0.9 SPG, shot 73.6 per cent from the field and 72.2 per cent from the line - all career-highs - in the regular season.
After a transitional off-season, the regular season began, and the Celtics started slow, to say the least. By the third week of January, Boston had a 23-24 record, were 11th in the East and as a result, there were calls for the team to be blown up. People claimed that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could not work together and fans were not convinced by the trade involving Horford and Walker. Of course, Stevens did not listen and he kept faith in Brown and Tatum.
Udoka's team started to perform. In February, Stevens sent Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford and a top-four-protected 2022 first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Derrick White at the trade deadline, after recognising that the C's backcourt needed freshened up. White has been a tremendous pick-up for Boston; he offers great minutes off the bench and has knocked down some huge shots since moving to the TD Garden.
Udoka's coaching ability and Stevens' presidential ability and patience has hugely benefitted the organisation.
Reaching the finals is one hell of an achievement, and doing so given the circumstances only a few months ago, Stevens deserves his flowers, despite only receiving one first-place vote for the Executive of the Year Award, coming in sixth. If this award took into account the post-season, it would have been a lot different.