Brad Stevens: Graduating from college to the Celtics

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 29, 2013 - 11:43 AM

Will Brad Stevens’ coaching success at Butler translate to the Celtics and NBA?

 

Right about suppertime on July 3 and after most everybody scattered to celebrate Independence Day, the Boston Celtics and Butler University issued Twitter alerts seconds apart that stunned two realms in the basketball world and proved that at least somebody still can keep a secret.

In announcing they had stealthily hired Brad Stevens to replace traded Doc Rivers as their coach, the NBA’s Celtics succeeded where Butler’s national rivals failed these past several years: They lured away the college-basketball wunderkind, who once paid the Indianapolis university for the privilege to work for its basketball team, with a lengthy, lucrative offer.

When the Celtics introduced Stevens at a news conference two days later, both he and Boston boss Danny Ainge used the same phrase to describe the other party’s commitment in this bet that a college coach can revive an NBA franchise where so many others have failed.

Each called it a leap of faith.

Stevens leapt at the chance to coach the glorified franchise he watched win NBA titles all throughout the 1980s, when he was a child in an Indianapolis suburb who watched game videotapes mornings before he attended afternoon kindergarten classes and dreamed in his driveway of becoming the next Larry Bird, not the next Bill Fitch.

In making that leap, Stevens said goodbye to the only state in which he had ever lived. He also bade a tearful farewell to the players, administrators and secretaries who stayed behind at a formerly underdog college program he had joined as a volunteer grad-school assistant 13 years ago and eventually coached to two NCAA title games before he left for Boston last summer.

“I don’t know if there’s ever a good time-bad time,” Stevens said. “It was the right time. I was lucky enough that somebody believed in me to do this.”

That somebody was Ainge, a guard on those 1980s Celtics teams Stevens watched and the architect who pieced Boston back into champions in 2008 after acquiring stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. All three now are long gone and Ainge has stripped the franchise back down to its studs after sending Garnett and Pierce to Brooklyn last summer in a deal that has helped shift the Eastern Conference’s balance of power, all in an attempt to build the Celtics back up once again with youth.

Included is a 37-year-old rookie NBA coach who will attempt to succeed in a brave, new world where Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Jerry Tarkanian, Mike Montgomery, Lon Kruger and other college coaches in the past 20 years all failed to survive.

Where others have failed

Pitino is the only man who coached two different schools to NCAA titles and already is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but he lasted fewer than six seasons with the Celtics and New York Knicks. Calipari coached fewer than three seasons with New Jersey in the 1990s before he returned to his winning ways in the college game with Memphis and Kentucky. All the others — including Tarkanian’s 20-game experiment with San Antonio two decades ago — came and went rather quickly.

Ainge attended Butler’s 2010 NCAA title game, nudged a Duke fan seated next to him and pointed to a man on the sidelines he called the best coach in college basketball, and he didn’t mean Mike Krzyzewski.

Three years later, he guaranteed Stevens a six-year, $22 million deal to guide a team Ainge dismantled last summer by trading away Rivers, Garnett and Pierce for multiple draft picks. He said he did so because he believes in Stevens’ intellect, integrity, competitiveness, attention to detail, what he calls Stevens’ “humility” and combination of an old-soul people person who reread Celtics great Bill Russell’s book on leadership during his first flight to Boston. Plus there’s Stevens’ new-age statistical analytics mind.

Ainge also did so because he believes the Celtics are not the kind of dysfunctional organization that has been the NBA graveyard for so many college coaches before Stevens.

“Rick Pitino, John Calipari are fantastic basketball coaches,” Ainge said, naming two on the day he introduced Stevens. “They didn’t fail because they can’t coach. The failure was from an organizational standpoint, not giving them patience, being supportive, [making correct] personnel decisions. Those guys could easily succeed in the NBA. We have to do this all together. We have to give him the support.

“I do know he had some concerns about that because there have been some really good coaches who haven’t had the opportunity to succeed, in my opinion.”

A whole, new world

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Latos 6:05 PM
Baltimore - B. Norris
Boston - J. Kelly 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - S. Greene
Detroit - K. Lobstein 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
NY Mets - J. Niese 6:10 PM
Miami - B. Penny
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick 6:10 PM
Atlanta - M. Minor
Toronto - R. Dickey 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Hellickson
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Arrieta
LA Angels - C. Wilson 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi 7:10 PM
Minnesota - T. Milone
Texas - D. Holland 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
Pittsburgh - J. Locke 7:15 PM
St. Louis - A. Wainwright
San Francisco - Y. Petit 7:40 PM
Colorado - J. Lyles
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
Washington - D. Fister 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw
Arizona - W. Miley 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many games will the Vikings win this season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close