DALLAS – ESPN NBA analyst Bob Myers asked the other on-air panelists a question.

Who is the NBA Finals MVP in the Dallas Mavericks-Boston Celtics series so far?

“Jaylen Brown,” studio host Malika Andrews responded.

Knicks guard and guest analyst Josh Hart said Brown.

“Jrue Holiday,” Michael Wilbon said.

It was a trick question created by Myers, Golden State’s former front office manager, to recognize one of the most important people involved in the Finals.

Myers’ MVP? Brad Stevens, Celtics president of basketball operations.

Now the award goes to a player, but Myers’ point shouldn’t be overlooked. Stevens deserves tremendous credit for building a Celtics team that can win a championship now and possibly more in the next few seasons.

Largely silent and away from the noise of the final, Stevens doesn’t want to draw attention to him. He also said the same when he was named 2023-2024 NBA Manager of the Year at the end of April.

“This recognition has everything to do with the team, and nothing to do with one individual,” he said in a statement. “Great teams require everyone in the building to be fully committed to each other and moving in one direction.”

Since coming off the bench as Boston’s head front office coach in 2021, Stevens has tinkered with the roster and made moves for this season that have given the Celtics their best team during the Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum era and their best chance to make their team to win. first title since 2008.

Stevens’ signings (Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday) before the 2023-2024 season are two big reasons why the Celtics won a league-best 64 games during the regular season, had the No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense, and the place reached the NBA Finals where they have a 2-0 lead against the Mavericks.

Porzingis, who Boston acquired from Washington in a three-team trade a year ago, had 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks in Game 1, and Holiday, whom Boston traded for just before the start of the season, had a team-high 26 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal in Game 2. They have made the Celtics more versatile offensively and defensively, limiting opponents’ options.

To get Porzingis, Stevens made tough decisions and sent longtime Celtics guard Marcus Smart to Memphis. As summer turned to fall, it appeared the Celtics were done making moves until possibly the February trade deadline.

Brad Stevens was the coach of the Boston Celtics for eight seasons before moving into a front office role with the team after the 2020-21 season.Brad Stevens was the coach of the Boston Celtics for eight seasons before moving into a front office role with the team after the 2020-21 season.

Brad Stevens was the coach of the Boston Celtics for eight seasons before moving into a front office role with the team after the 2020-21 season.

However, when Milwaukee traded Jrue Holiday to Portland in the Damian Lillard deal, and the Blazers had no intention of keeping Holiday, Stevens went to work. If A doesn’t happen, B won’t happen either. But when A happened – the Bucks traded for Lillard – the Celtics were prepared for B – acquiring Holiday.

“When I first got traded here, he was obviously one of the first people I talked to, and I just think about his positive nature,” Holiday said. “He’s such a kind soul, someone who has a lot of energy about him. So every time I talk to him and every time I see him, he’s always been encouraging. This has been from the beginning. It’s always fun to have someone like that standing behind you and, again, someone like that in your corner of your organization.”

Stevens also traded Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City to get Al Horford back in Boston, and the 17-year veteran remains a positive force on the court and in the locker room, and acquiring Derrick White from San Antonio at the 2022 trade deadline is a new step. that has given the Celtics offensive and defensive options that most teams don’t have.

While Brown and Tatum’s picks were Danny Ainge’s front office moves, Stevens’ influence on the roster is why Boston is just two wins away from breaking the tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for most titles in the history of the competition.

It was a blowout when Stevens decided to leave the bench. But it’s not like Stevens hasn’t caused a surprise before. He had been a successful coach at Butler for six seasons, including back-to-back Final Four trips in 2010 and 2011, before abruptly leaving college basketball for the Celtics in 2013. In eight seasons as Boston’s coach, he compiled a 354-282 record and had a 38. -40 playoff record, reaching the Eastern Conference finals three times.

But the grind of the regular season wore on Stevens, and Stevens suggested players needed a new voice. When Ainge decided to leave the Celtics, Stevens became the perfect replacement.

Two years ago, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said of Stevens: “He’s such an insightful person. It shows up in his coaching, but it just shows up in his analysis of the game day in and day out. this moment in terms of putting together and helping Danny… This is a role that Brad has been preparing for his whole life.

Jaylen Brown said: “I’m just happy for him. His schedule has calmed down, which probably made him a little less stressed than when he was coaching us.

“Brad has been great since joining the Boston organization. He has helped get this organization back to winning ways. He has now been able to step into that GM position and put the right pieces together to get us back to the finals. “

There have been setbacks. The Celtics lost to Golden State in the 2022 Finals after taking a 2–1 series lead, and then-Celtics coach Ime Udoka was suspended indefinitely just before the start of the 2022–23 season for “violations of team policy”.

Stevens made Joe Mazzulla interim head coach and then permanent head coach. Boston lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals last season. Mazzulla grew as a coach and Stevens gave him a better selection this season.

“I always had a lot of respect for the way he went about coaching, how he kept family balance No. 1, how he treated people No. 1,” Mazzulla said. “That was always more important than whether there was a success or a failure. He runs the leadership and runs the temperature of the building, just like everyone else.”

The Celtics need two more wins to clinch their 18e championship, but Stevens has also positioned the Celtics to compete for championships in the coming seasons.

Brown has a contract until 2028-2029, Holiday signed an extension in April that will keep him at Celtic until at least 2026-2027, Porzingis’ contract expires after 2025-2026 and Payton Pritchard’s deal runs through 2027-2028.

There are contract situations involving Tatum and White that need to be addressed, but it is possible and even likely that the Celtics reach extensions with both players, including a deal that will make Tatum one of the highest-paid players in the league.

If Boston wins the title this season, Brown, Holiday and Tatum are potential Finals MVP picks.

Stevens operates behind the scenes. You don’t see him often at playoff games, except in the suite where we watch the game.

But Myers is right. Stevens is also an MVP

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Boston Celtics’ success is largely due to the work of Brad Stevens