CHICAGO — It's a rare moment to see Arizona forward Aaron Gordon without his game face on.
But when you mention the name of Celtics coach Brad Stevens, this ex-Wildcat morphs into an ear-to-ear grinning pussycat before your very eyes.
"Real, real good guy," said a smiling Gordon when asked about Stevens. "Good guy, loves basketball; good heart. Enjoys the game, enjoys coaching."
Gordon wasn't alone in his enthusiasm towards Stevens, whose presence as the Celtics' coach was indeed a positive for many soon-to-be NBA players.
Kentucky's Julius Randle spoke about the Celtics tradition, which includes an NBA-record 17 championships.
"It was an honor to be talking to those guys," Randle said.
Like many players in next month's draft, Randle is an early entrant who left college after just one season.
Randle believes the fact that Stevens is relatively new to the NBA (he just finished his first season) is a bonus for players such as himself.
"The Celtics are a young team; he's able to relate to young guys," Randle said. "He knows the adjustment because he's making the adjustment as well, making that jump from college to the pros."
N.C. State's T.J. Warren, who told CSNNE.com on Friday that he will be working out for the Celtics the first week of June, echoed similar sentiments about Stevens.
"He's great," Warren said about Stevens. "Coming from the college ranks, that's something that I can relate to, coming from college to the league. That's big. Great guy overall and I really made a connection with him and [Boston president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge. It was fun talking with those guys."
And those conversations may continue for years to come if the Celtics select them with one of their two, first-round picks.
An opportunity to play will certainly make Boston a more appealing destination for them. They're well aware they will be joining a team that's getting younger.
Having a youthful coach in Stevens, 37, who isn't even a full year removed from the college game, is seen as a definite plus by the draft hopefuls.