Just as Indianapolis was counting down to the start of a four-day weekend last Wednesday afternoon, news broke that slightly dampened our fireworks: Brad Stevens, the face of Butler Basketball, mid-majors and March Madness Cinderellas had agreed to be the next head coach of the Boston Celtics. (On July 6, the university named Brandon Miller - a former Butler point guard who joined the team as assistant coach in April - as the team's new head coach.)
First reactions were strong, some even harsh. The feelings of anger and betrayal and sadness quickly faded into a slight smile for most: Indiana is happy for Stevens. After repeatedly spurning bigger checks and brighter lights from pedigreed programs across the country, it was assumed that the whiz kid, he's still just 36, was ours forever. Then the Boston Celtics came calling, and now we're here...
Stevens leaves behind something much greater than a stellar record of 166-49 - which includes back-to-back title game appearances - during his six years as Butler's head bulldog. He set a standard of accountability and preparation that every player and every coach in every sport should strive to achieve. After seven years working his way up the assistant coach ladder at Butler, Stevens took the helm and pushed a little known mid-major to the highest level of college basketball, doing it with the utmost class and poise.
Ronald Nored, the starting point guard for the Bulldogs during their two Final Four trips, calls Stevens his role model. "He showed me that you can be successful in this business and still do things the right way," Nored said. "He showed me you can be really good and still treat people with respect. I'm not sure there is anyone in my life that I've looked up more than Coach Stevens." How many other coaches earn such praise?
Nored recently joined the coaching staff at the University of South Alabama after one season as Brownsburg High School's head coach. "I can only imagine how difficult it was for him to leave," he added. "We all thought that he would never leave and I truly know how he feels about Butler because I've heard him talk about it many times. I've seen him live it, so I can only imagine just how difficult it was for him to go."
On the court, Stevens proved that a prepared team of selfless players could beat a collection of raw talent on the biggest of stages. Perhaps the player who most exemplified these virtues during Stevens' tenure was Matt Howard. Howard, who plays professionally in Europe, was stunned when he first heard the reports.
But he also recognized that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. "If you'd ask any coach anywhere I imagine all of them would jump at the opportunity to coach the Boston Celtics," Howard told NUVO. "He's proven in the past that he was willing to turn down bigger jobs, but I don't how you could turn down this opportunity."
"I was shocked when I heard," Howard added. "In a way I was really hoping it was true, and in a way I was hoping it wasn't true, because I loved him being here in Indianapolis, but I also love that he's getting this opportunity."