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One win away from NBA championship, Alex Cora sees Celtics on cusp of another dynasty

Gabrielle Starr, Boston Herald on

Published in Basketball

The Boston Red Sox may be Alex Cora’s team, but they’re not his only team in town.

He’s big on the winning culture across all Boston sports, but particularly the Celtics, who are one game away from winning the NBA Finals. Recently, he and his family sat courtside at one of the playoff games; his twin sons, wearing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown jerseys, were featured in a viral social media post, which the Celtics captioned, “inspiring the next generation.”

“It’s been fun going to the Garden … It’s electric,” he said Thursday. “Took the boys over there and they loved it.”

For the Sox skipper, it all starts with Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ head coach-turned-president of basketball operations.

“He’s been great for me,” Cora said. “When I was home in ‘20, he actually reached out to me to ask me a few things about (playing in the postseason), the way we did things, how do I, kind of like, if I was in the (NBA) Bubble with them, what to do, and we had great conversations.”

“Brad is one of the best out there. … We had a great conversation when we went to their facility, about analytics and assessments, all that,” he recalled. “He still believes that the gym is his sanctuary: less cameras, more eyes. And you know, coaching is about feel and see and correcting people, which is awesome. He was joking that probably the analytics department is dying for him to retire or get fired so they can actually do their thing.”

Cora has also had conversations with head coach Joe Mazzulla and his staff. “Joe has reached out to me a few times, and actually did a Zoom call with them, with the coaching staff, early in the season,” he said. “It’s been fun.”

Several MLB franchise have had dynastic periods in their histories, but the majority of them were in the earlier decades of the 20th century – the 1910s Red Sox and Athletics, 1940s Cardinals, the Yankees almost always until the new millennium – before expansion made the path to victory a much more winding road. Dynasties are more prevalent NBA, and Cora feels the Celtics are on the cusp of another one.

“There’s a process in the NBA,” Cora said. “I grew up watching Michael Jordan, and we know that the Pistons kicked their (expletive), right, for a while there, and then they turned the corner and then became the dynasty that they were.

 

“It’s very similar to the Miami situation, right? Like Miami seems like they had (the Celtics’) number for a while, you know, the culture, and (head coach Erik Spoelstra) and everything they do. And this year – injuries or not injuries, it really doesn’t matter – (the Celtics) kind of like, got the Heat, and then they took off and it’s been fun.”

This year’s Celtics also remind the Red Sox manager of another elite Boston team in recent history: his own.

“They’re almost there, they’re almost there, and they’re very similar to us in ‘18,” he said of his inaugural season, when the Red Sox won a franchise-record 108 regular-season games and easily took the World Series. “I do believe that with everything that they went through, with the head coaching part of it, and Joe last year being the head coach but not having his staff, right, I think it was kind of like an obstacle for him. But he got the right people, they got the right coach.”

“They have two great superstars, young ones, that they’re really good at what they do,” Cora lauded. “They have learned over the years how to become partners, right, and just to overcome adversity.”

They also have a David Ortiz-like veteran on the cusp of a Cinderella story. However, unlike his close friend, who was 28 when the Red Sox reversed ‘The Curse’ in 2004, Al Horford is 38 and has waited 17 seasons to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

“Al, at his age, I think what he said after clinching the East was powerful. When they asked him, ‘Are you hungry to win it?’ and he said, ‘No, I’m starving.’ That, I mean, I got chills just thinking about it,” Cora said. “You spend all your life trying to win and win and win and doesn’t happen, and now he’s one win away from winning it.”

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