After 12 memorable years at Butler University with six of those coming as head coach, Brad Stevens knew that when he was shortlisted for the Boston Celtics job back in 2013, there was no going back. This was going to be a different experience and a risk.
But the 40-year-old Stevens, known for his calm and reserved demeanour wanted a shot at the big time. The Celtics were rebuilding after the big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen guided Boston to an NBA title in 2008 and for general manager Danny Ainge to select a young, inexperienced NBA-level playcaller was a bold move.
But it has worked.
In a quick turnaround, Stevens led the Celtics to the post-season in 2015 and has established them as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and Stevens even enjoyed leading the East as the head coach during this season’s All-Star Game.
“I’ve had great support from the front office, great support from our ownership,” Stevens said.
“I think that’s the most important thing. Then I think you’re coaching basketball, you’ve just got to figure out what your team does well, who you have on the court, and try to put people in the best position to have success. That doesn’t change.”
Leaving Butler though was going to be tough. A campus that he called home for 12 years and as coach had led the Bulldogs, a surprise package in the college basketball world to consecutive NCAA Final Fours, a feat that the Indianapolis native achieved when he was only 33-years-old.
But with no return to the NCAA in sight, Stevens thought long and hard about where he going to go and the Celtics seemed like the perfect fit.
“I’d done enough research on not only the NBA, but the kind of place that I would go if I were to leave Butler, which was going to be a really hard choice,” he admitted.
“I decided I wasn’t going to go to another college job. So it had to be a pretty special opportunity, and the Boston Celtics are as good as it gets.”
But despite the success with Boston, Stevens admits that he is still learning and always adjusting to the demands of the NBA that the college game doesn’t have or prepare you for.
“We prepare our best to win every single game, but we make sure our guys have clear minds and fresh legs as much as possible,” Stevens says.
“We just played a crazy nine days. We played in six straight games in different time zones, which I’ve never done. It was incredible. Our guys’ resolve throughout it was pretty remarkable.”