Why Jaylen Brown still holds a grudge against Thunder's Billy Donovan

Darren Hartwell
NBC Sports Boston

Billy Donovan and a Georgia high school teacher share something in common: They both said the wrong thing to Jaylen Brown.

During a Zoom conference Friday with University of Massachusetts students, the young Boston Celtics wing shared a story of an interaction he had with Donovan when the current Oklahoma City Thunder head coach was coaching him on USA Basketball's Under-18 team.

Brown, then 17, was one of the team's best players but didn't think Donovan was giving him enough playing time. So, he asked Donovan for an explanation.

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"He told me he wasn't playing me because he said I didn't play hard," Brown recalled, as transcribed by the Boston Herald's Mark Murphy. "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."

Brown said he initially bristled at Donovan's comment -- "I was so mad I was crying" -- and still hasn't forgotten the coach's words.

"I think Billy Donovan had a big impact on my drive for sure," Brown said. "I'm in the NBA now, and hopefully I have a couple more years now to go, so we'll see."

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Brown already has proven Donovan wrong: He's currently in his fourth NBA season and was putting up career numbers (20.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game) before the coronavirus pandemic put the 2019-20 campaign on hold.

The 23-year-old likely has many successful seasons ahead of him thanks to a burning desire to succeed that Donovan unearthed. Brown said he later came to appreciate Donovan's words -- but still holds them against the Thunder coach.

"That was his way, and I really didn't appreciate that at all. It upset me," Brown said. "I'm not cool with him to this day. For someone to say that was a lot for a 17-year-old.

"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."

So, if the NBA resumes in the near future and Brown continues to tear it up for the Celtics, fans have Donovan in part to thank.

Why Jaylen Brown still holds a grudge against Thunder's Billy Donovan originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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