AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — There is a clear and well defined end to this season for Brad Stevens, yet another adjustment he has had to make in his maiden voyage as an NBA head coach with the Boston Celtics.
Stevens readily admits that the Celtics' chances at making the postseason has been a long shot for quite some time.
It wasn't until the Celtics (23-54) were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs did the stark reality set in that this was going to be his first time as a head coach without a postseason.
"When you're coaching in college, you always have that conference tournament, unless you're in one of those conferences where [all teams] don't make the conference tournament," Stevens said. "So, you always have this, this little bit of hope at the end of the tunnel. That's something you can always use as motivation and you can always look to."
In six seasons as coach of the Butler Bulldogs, Stevens advanced to the postseason every year, which included five NCAA Tournament bids and a pair of national runner-up finishes (2010 and 2011).
But there's no NIT or CBI tournament for teams that fail to make the NBA playoffs.
When you get to the NBA and don't make it to the playoffs, your season ends in the middle of April.
Toronto All-Star DeMar DeRozan is in his fifth NBA season, all with the Raptors. He has been instrumental in Toronto clinching a playoff spot this season for the first time since 2008.
"It's not that bad when you first get into the league, because the season is so much longer than what you had in college," DeRozan told CSNNE.com. "But after a couple years, you see guys you played with, you came in the league with playing in the playoffs while you sit home and watch ... it just makes you hungrier to see what that's like."
Those rough years DeRozan said, made getting to the playoffs all that much sweeter - something Stevens hopes to experience sooner rather than later with the Celtics.
Although all indications heading into the season were that the Celtics would be where they are as one of the league's worst teams, Stevens kept an optimistic outlook on their postseason chances up until they were officially eliminated.
And while he admits that there is some disappointment in that, there are some positives that can come from these final five games to close out the season.
"This is a real test, right?" Stevens said. "Guys, a lot of these guys have played in the playoffs, they've seen and tasted that. They're disappointed that they're not going to get a chance to do that. And it's been a long season, full of a lot of downs. But that's where, this is really important to me. This is a test of who you are. Now is an opportunity, maybe more so when things are going well, to show who you are."