Bradford: Why Alex Cora can use Brad Stevens as a guide

Rob Bradford
October 23, 2017 - 5:37 pm

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

WALTHAM -- Alex Cora has a pretty good idea what he's getting into. He played in Boston. He's hung around Boston. He has listened to everything that has gone in Boston from people who are knee-deep in working in Boston.

But when it comes to running a team in Boston, it never hurts to get a little guidance.

It's a reality that Brad Stevens learned when coming here more than four years ago. Talking to the select few who have lived the same life is never a bad thing.

"I've texted with John [Farrell] quite a bit, and seen him on a couple of occasions. I knew Claude [Julien] pretty well. Texted Bruce [Cassidy]. I've known Bill [Belichick] probably better than any of them because of my relationship with Josh McDaniels," the Celtics coach told after his team's practice, Monday. "I've taken advantage of it every which way."

Coaching and managing in this market is just different. Cora understands that, as do the people who hired him. If it was believed that dealing with the unique level of scrutiny and drama would be an issue, the 42-year-old's candidacy might be viewed in significantly different light. The same probably could be said for Stevens, whose primary experience with major markets before taking this job was living life on the outskirts of Indianapolis.

New York? Two teams, more to focus on. Los Angeles? Also too many other shiny objects to zero in on. Everywhere else? Try and find the local tone and tenor you'll read, listen to and watch -- zeroing in on one team per sport -- anywhere outside of European soccer landmarks.

Like Cora, Stevens is smart. He doesn't try and diminish the importance of adjusting to the landscape. That's why it's worth giving him a listen.

"Obviously, the difference between this market and other market is that you get a lot of attention. A lot of things that may not be a discussion point in other markets, they are here," Stevens said. "You just have more people covering you so you have more eyes on you so you have more attention. But I think the way you go about it doesn't change. I've always appreciated the fact that everybody has a job to do. Part of professional sports is the attention that we get. That's part of the reason we get paid what we get. So ultimately there's a responsibility that comes with that.

"I don't look at it as any extra pressure or anything else. You just look at it as that you need to understand that there are going to be more things talked about and ultimately you just have to keep focused on what's important to your team and manage all of that appropriately."

But there's the macro, and then the micro. The former, of course, is none other than problems involving individual players.

It's one thing for the head man to come to grips with what this whole scene represents. Yet, if even one player comes off the aforementioned rails, the whole approach can take a hit. It's why the Patriots do things the way they do. (Which is only made possible because of the limited availability and the absurd amount of winning.) The Red Sox, on the other hand, have had their struggles in this respect. Believe me, John Farrell tried to make David Price see the kind of vision Stevens references. But, for whatever reason, the pitcher was going to formulate his own plan of action.

This will be one of Cora's biggest challenges -- making the message stick with all of his players. With the exception of a few hiccups, Stevens has seemingly managed the feat. And when there was an unfortunate reminder that young men will sometimes be young men, it was quickly reeled in.

"Each situation is a little bit different," Stevens said. "There are probably big deals that need to be discussed immediately and handled immediately, and there are things that aren't as big a deal in this room as it's being made out to be outside this room. We handle that appropriately. We talk about the reality how lucky we are to do what we do and part of that is the scrutiny that comes with it. So we talk about that and we make it part of being able to being able to navigate the process of growth. You can't have things that distract or pull you away from it that you create, or that you let others create."

Sounds like he knows what he's talking about. When this World Series business is done, Cora might want to give his new compatriot a ring.