Much to the dismay of many in Indiana and to the joy of Bostonians everywhere, Brad Stevens was officially announced as the head coach of the Boston Celtics Friday morning.
Stevens becomes the 17th coach in the franchise’s storied and decorated history. He replaces Doc Rivers, whom left the team in June in a trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Celtics, which are in a period of rebuild after trading away superstars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets in an NBA Draft night swap for future draft picks, have brought in Stevens as a splash hire to help guide what will be a very young roster.
“I certainly have a lot of thanks to dole out, starting with my family,” Stevens said Friday morning at the Celtics press conference. “I’m very thankful to the Boston Celtics leadership team and ownership. … I am absolutely humbled to be sitting in this room and looking around me with the banners that hang. As any young basketball fan was or is, I’m just in awe of the Boston Celtics.”
Earlier in the week, Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge added to the Celtics official Web site, “Brad and I share a lot of the same values. Though he is young, I see Brad as a great leader who leads with impeccable character and a strong work ethic. His teams always play hard and execute on both ends of the court. Brad is a coach who has already enjoyed lots of success, and I look forward to working with him towards Banner 18.”
Stevens, just 36 years of age, garnered national attention as a head coach when he led tiny Butler University to back-to-back NCAA National Championship games in 2010 and 2011. Butler, with under 5,000 students in and around campus, nearly beat mighty Duke in the 2010 championship game in Indianapolis when a last-second shot by Gordon Hayward didn’t fall in a 61-59 loss. Butler would lose to Connecticut the following season in the title game, 53-41. In Stevens’ six years at the school, Butler won three Horizon League tournament titles, made the NCAA Tournament five times and Stevens himself was named Horizon League Coach of the Year twice in 2009 and 2010.
Stevens leaves behind a Butler program that just joined the Big East Conference, which the university was officially included on July 1. A Zionsville High School and DePauw University graduate, Stevens had taken on the persona of ‘Indiana basketball’, the childhood shooter who moves onto the big stage in his home state with all the Hoosier Hysteria behind him.
His role with the Celtics will take on a much different feel than that in Indianapolis. Already under intense media scrutiny in the spotlight of Boston, Celtics Nation have already begun to ask how Stevens will handle the prickly personality of superstar Rajon Rondo. The talented point guard clashed on numerous occasions with then-head coach Rivers, and has been known to carry a short fuse with teammates, coaches, officials and fans. With a roster that boasts of few NBA veterans and plenty of room to maneuver, Stevens could fall in as the right man for a very coachable group or be in the wrong place at the wrong time for a team blowup.
It will be interesting to see what the Celtics do with Rondo in the coming months and into the regular season as rumors have already started swirling about the team looking toward the 2014 NBA Draft and the potential of landing an Andrew Wiggins or one of many the so-called experts believe could be the best draft class since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony headlined the 2003 class.
While basketball fans of Butler and in Indiana as a whole will be sorry to see Stevens bolt for the pros, the legacy that he left is one in which to be proud. Butler was able to rise from a decent ‘mid-major’ to a national power and the school certainly benefited from it. Stevens, who owns a house on Lake Wawasee in Syracuse, helped bring in funds locally and from around to the state to refurbish the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the serene Butler campus, one of the crown jewels in the lore of Hoosier Hysteria.
The Indianapolis Star reported Friday morning the Butler job search was narrowed down to two candidates – Butler men’s basketball assistant Brandon Miller or University of Michigan men’s basketball assistant LaVall Jordan.
It’s by no accident that Butler was able to rise to power with Stevens at the wheel. And he should be good for the Celtics, if the Celtics – and all those associated – let him be good for the franchise.