Celtics strength coach Bryan Doo almost always dresses modestly. At practices, he wears shorts and a Celtics T-shirt. At games, he wears a Celtics polo and tan slacks. And that is about as fancy as he likes to be.
When the team traveled to the White House after winning the 2008 NBA title, Doo packed his only suit, which he had owned since graduating from high school in 1991.
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett instantly noticed the worn-down suit. He asked Doo how old it was.
“You just met the President of the United States in that?” Garnett said. “We can’t have you wearing that anymore.”
After the Celtics returned home, Garnett arranged for Doo to have a suit custom made. Then he realized that other staff members could use upgrades, too. So a representative from Ralph Lauren measured almost 20 of them for new suits, and Garnett paid for them.
“That,” Doo said, “was just the kind of guy that KG was.”
Avery Bradley is the only current Celtic who played with Garnett, so when the 40-year-old star retired last week after 21 pro seasons (six in Boston), it did not resonate strongly with this group.
But for Doo, now in his 14th season in Boston, Garnett’s departure stirs raw emotions. The 6-foot-11-inch player and the 5-foot-6-inch strength coach shared an uncommon bond.
Doo saw the relentless competitor we all saw. But he also saw Garnett’s soft side, his good deeds, his heart. He saw that when you wear your old high school suit to the White House, Kevin Garnett will make everything right.
“I’ve worked in a lot of sports,” Doo said, “and I’ve watched him be the best teammate of any athlete I’ve ever seen.”
When Garnett was traded from the Timberwolves to the Celtics in 2007, his connection with Doo was not instant. He was set in his ways, his rhythms, and he was leery of having his routine disturbed by an outsider.
So Doo would prod subtly, suggesting small adjustments to Garnett’s training approach.
“Look,” Garnett would respond. “I was the league MVP before I met you.”
So Doo focused on minor issues. He told Garnett that if he did not change, he would be susceptible to an injury. Then in January 2008, Garnett was sidelined by an abdominal strain. He was then ready to listen.
“I think he realized that I care about him as a person,” Doo said. “I think that was tough for him to accept, but he realized I was there for him.”
Garnett changed the team’s culture almost instantly. When Garnett was injured and not in the locker room, Doo said, other players tended to act out. When Garnett was there, they did not. Doo recalled a practice when coach Doc Rivers was trying to get the younger big men to understand their roles.
“KG just goes, ‘Yo, stop, stop, stop. Come here,’ ” Doo recalled. “And he grabs the bigs and he goes, ‘Hey, this is our job. You see that man? That man, Paul Pierce, is your scorer. Ray Allen is your scorer. You get them open. That’s all you do.
“If you get a rebound and put it back in, that’s great. But don’t look for the ball and don’t ask for the ball. You don’t see me ask for it and you don’t ask for it. Do your job, get rebounds, and that’s it. So who are our scorers?’ ”
From then on, the young frontcourt players knew exactly who their scorers were.
Garnett always looked out for his teammates, Doo said. During one road trip, the Celtics wanted special dinners for a flight home, then realized the meals would exceed the travel budget. So Garnett paid for the food, unbeknownst to the others.
When Garnett signed with the Chinese shoe company Anta, he asked Doo, a third-generation Chinese-American, to join him on a trip to the country. Doo had never been there before.
“This is part of my heritage, you know?” said Doo, his eyes beginning to well up. “He just said, ‘Hey, I want you to come. You helped train me, you’re part of my crew, and this is home for you.’”
During one off-day while the team was in New York in 2012, Garnett wanted to get to Boston to check on his pregnant wife, Brandi. He also knew that Doo had not seen his wife and children for a while. So he rented a private jet for the two of them.
“We’d talk about our baby girls all the time,” Doo said. “How do you raise them? What’s important in life?”
Doo sees players come and go. It is the nature of his job. But Garnett’s trade to Brooklyn in 2013 was difficult for him. Before Garnett left, Doo brought him a Roman gladiator mask to remind him of their memorable trip to Italy with the Celtics.
The two remain close, most recently texting about Garnett’s retirement. And Doo still wears the suit Garnett bought for him in 2008. He calls it the “KG Special.”
“When I wear my suit, I feel good,” Doo said. “KG would always say, ‘You know, B-Doo, you look good, you feel good. You feel good, you do well.’”