Brad Stevens is leaving Butler to become the next head coach of the Boston Celtics, the school announced in a press release on Wednesday afternoon.
“Our family is thrilled for the opportunity given to us by the leadership of the Boston Celtics, but it is emotional to leave a place that we have called home for the past 13 years,” Stevens said in a release.
“We truly love Butler University and Indianapolis, and are very thankful to have had the opportunity to celebrate so many wonderful things together. What makes Butler truly unique is the people that we have been so blessed to work with. When it comes time for our kids to look at schools, we will start with Butler University.”
This move seems to have caught everyone off guard, as there were, to my knowledge, no rumblings about Stevens potentially making the jump.
But in all honesty, this could end up being a perfect fit.
For starters, Stevens was never going to take another college job. He was never leaving Butler for another program. He was making excellent money in his home state at a job he loved in a town that he family wanted to be in. You have to respect his patience, his decision to bypass the allure of a bigger job at the college level, waiting for the chance to get a gig at the highest level.
And even if he ends up being an epic bust with the Celtics, what’s the worst case scenario? He gets NBA head coach money for a couple of years then takes whatever job he wants back at the college level? Not bad.
What sets Stevens apart, however, from other college guys that have made the leap to the league is that he’s a sensational x’s-and-o’s coach that has an in-depth understanding of advanced analytics and little-to-no desire to wade into the murky waters of high-level recruiting. He’s a ball coach through-and-through. He’s not a pitchman. He’s not known as a recruiter. He’s not a celebrity. He’s the anti-John Calipari, and that’s what I think will make him be a good fit at the NBA level. Hell, he’s even got Phil Jackson levels of zen.
Butler’s teams were known for three things: physical, grind-you-into-submission defense; impeccable offensive execution; and the constant overachievement of a plucky underdog.
When his team’s bought in to what he was selling, they won games. Perhaps the biggest concern heading into his professional career is simply the fact it may be more difficult to get NBA players to buy in. The best — Gregg Popovich, Jackson, etc. — make that happen, and it will be interesting to see if Stevens can follow in their footsteps.
As far as his replacement, it will be interesting to see who takes over the position. Matthew Graves left the program a couple of months ago to take over at South Alabama. He currently has Ronald Nored on his staff as an assistant. Those are two names that will be all over lists of potential replacements at Butler. It will also be interesting to se if Barry Collier, who is currently an AD with the Bulldogs, will return to the bench.