CARLINVILLE – It’s a long way from Blackburn College to the Boston Celtics bench. But Jamie Young has enjoyed the ride.
Young, a 1998 Blackburn graduate, just completed his seventh year as an assistant coach with the Celtics, who have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in each of the last two seasons. It’s been one of many highlights in a seventeen-year career in the NBA for Young, a Logansport, Ind. native who remains humble for the experience.
“I think a lot about where I came from, and how I got here,” said Young, 43. “I really can’t believe this has all happened to me.
“I just want to keep getting better every day. I study other coaches, whether they’re in the NBA, college, or high school, to learn from what they do to be successful, and be the best that I can be.”
Young broke into the NBA in the 2000-01 season, when he was hired to break down video for the New Jersey Nets. He joined the Celtics the following season and spent six years as the team’s video coordinator. He became Boston’s advance scout prior to the 2007-08 season, when the franchise captured its league-high seventeenth NBA title, and was named assistant coach in August 2011.
The Celtics also reached the conference finals in Young’s first year as an assistant coach. Boston went 55-27 this season, a year after winning 53 games.
Young worked for Glenn “Doc” Rivers in his first two seasons behind the bench and was offered a spot on Rivers’ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013. Though it was a tough decision, Young chose to stay in Boston and coach under Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ headman for the last five years.
“Brad is a high-character guy, both on and off the court. He’s just an exceptional individual,” said Young. “He’s extremely detailed in game preparation, and is outstanding at being able to size up an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. We don’t have long practices under him, but there’s no wasted time. He prepares the team very well to go into games, and he gets results.
“There’s such a family atmosphere on the Celtics,” continued Young. “Brad has really fostered that within the organization. I have a nine-year-old son, and he’s at practice pretty much all the time, and at games that aren’t on school nights. He’s kind of grown up around the team.” Young’s wife, Jaynene, is an educator in the Belmont, Mass. school district.
Among the difficulties of life in the NBA are long hours and travel, so Young tries to make the most of his time at home. “I want to spend as much quality time with my son and wife as possible,” he said. “It’s really hard through the season, since I’m gone so much. In the offseason and whenever else, I want to do the best I can, to make those times as special as possible.”
Young’s father, Tom, was a Vietnam veteran who died in 2007. One of Young’s brothers, Jason, played NCAA Division I basketball at Iona College in New York.
At Blackburn, Young earned all-St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors in both football and basketball, and played a key role in helping both programs collect SLIAC titles during the 1996-97 academic year.
“I still remember my time at Blackburn, and what it meant to me,” reflected Young. “I miss those times, because they were so much fun. I’ve tried to keep in touch with people there, and my old teammates. A lot of them have gone on to successful careers themselves, even if they aren’t under the spotlight like I am. They’re great teachers, coaches, businesspeople, husbands, and fathers, and have built good lives for themselves.”
Being a part of one of the legendary franchises in major league sports is something that never loses its appeal to Young. “It’s special to be a Celtic,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s the greatest team in any sport, and I never forget that.
“There isn’t a time when I’m driving to our brand-new practice facility or the TD Garden (the Celtics’ home court) that I don’t think of how grateful I am to be doing this,” remarked Young. “I think of my dad, how he told me to be loyal to the people around you, and everything else will take care of itself. Being a part of this is really something.”
Tom Emery is a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville. He may be reached at 217-710-8392.