Billy Donovan had some harsh words for a 17-year-old Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown is having a breakout year with the Boston Celtics this year, and Billy Donovan may find it ironic that Brown is putting up such big numbers in his fourth NBA year. Based on what Donovan said to Brown years ago, it sounds like the Oklahoma City Thunder coach thought Brown would have been out of the league by now.
While speaking with students at UMass on a Zoom chat Friday, Brown told a story about how Donovan motivated him with some harsh criticism when he was 17. Brown was playing for Donovan on USA Basketball’s u-18 squad at the time, and he said he was “killing everybody in practice.” Despite that, Donovan wasn’t giving Brown much playing time. Brown wanted to know why.
“He told me he wasn’t playing me because he said I didn’t play hard,” Brown recalled, as transcribed by Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. “I said, ‘What do you mean, I’ve been cooking everybody.’ And he told me you’re only going to be in the league for three years because you don’t play hard. … And instantly I was emotional. I was 17 years old. I was like, ‘What do you mean? I’m the best player here. I’m cooking everybody.’”
Brown said he was so angry that he cried, but he realized what Donovan meant as he got older. Brown was relying strictly on talent when he should have also been trying to out-work people. While he admits he is still bothered to this day that Donovan would say that to a 17-year-old, Brown acknowledges that it has helped fuel his NBA career.
“For someone to say that was a lot for a 17-year-old,” Brown said. “I appreciate the message he delivered, and to this day I kind of think about it, because that message was added to my work ethic.
“I’m never going to let someone tell me what I’m going to be or I’m not going to be. He told me to my face when I was 17, you’re going to make it to the NBA, but you’re only going to be there for three years because you don’t play hard.”
Brown signed a four-year, $115 million deal with the Celtics last offseason. He is averaging 20.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season and has already had some incredible highlight moments during his career. Apparently fans in Boston can thank Donovan for that.