July 5, 2013

ON BASKETBALL: Allure of coaching Celtics too much too pass up

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WALTHAM, Mass. -- New Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens may come to Portland to watch the Maine Red Claws, but it won't be to see his son play.

click image to enlarge

Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, left, speaks alongside new head coach Brad Stevens, right, during a news conference where Stevens was introduced Friday, July 5, 2013, at the NBA basketball team's training facility in Waltham, Mass. Stevens twice led the Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA title game. He replaces Doc Rivers, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

AP

Brady Stevens is only 7-years-old.

Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers took in a couple of Red Claws games last year at the Portland Expo, watching his son Jeremiah play for the Red Claws, which is Boston's NBA D-League affiliate.

Brad Stevens might show up in the Expo to see how some young Celtics are faring in their development.

And the Celtics will be developing, including their young coach. Stevens is only 36 (albeit only two years younger than Rivers was when be became the Orlando Magic head coach in 1999).

The Celtics were able to do what big college programs like UCLA and Illinois could not -- woo Stevens away from his beloved Butler University in Indianapolis.

Other teams never even got an interview. Stevens said no before it got that far. Then he received a call from Celtics general manager Danny Ainge. What did Stevens think about that?

"First of all, the Boston Celtics? Wow," Stevens said. "That was an incredible feeling. Certainly flattering."

But Ainge went beyond flattery, offering Stevens a plan for rebuilding the Celtics, and backing his coach with an unprecedented six-year contract.

It was also an offer from the NBA, which meant Stevens did not have to feel disloyal leaving his school for another.

"One of the things that I love is that I don't have to throw my Butler gear away," Stevens said. "I'm so thrilled. I can still root for the guys.

"We're not going to lose any of our passion for (Indianapolis), or our passion for Butler."

The "we" includes Brady, 4-year-old daughter Kinsley and wife Tracy, an attorney who serves as her husband's agent.

"I'm the only coach in the country who pays 100 percent to his agent," Stevens joked.

Tracy Stevens said her husband listens to her business advice.

"But I still have to remind him to put the dishes in the dishwasher," she said.

Like her husband said many times, Tracy Stevens said it was not an easy decision to leave Butler. So much has happened so quickly, it's been hard for Brad Stevens to soak it all in..

"But he will over time," Tracy said.

"He had the computer out this morning, watching film. And there was the biggest smile I've seen on his face. He realizes this is the level he gets to coach at. He gets to coach with these amazing players. I know he is intellectually excited to do that."

"Intellectual" is a word often used in describing Stevens. He played basketball for Division III DePauw and earned his degree in economics in 1999. He worked for a year with a large pharmaceutical company, but basketball was in his blood. He left in 2000 to join Butler as a volunteer assistant. He worked his way to head coach in 2007, at the age of 30.

He is considered humble and a strong builder of relationships. His characteristics and background do not seem much different from another young man who took on a very visible job in the bright spotlight of Boston sports -- Theo Epstein, hired as the Red Sox general manager at the age of 28.

But in a reverse role, it is the Celtics general manager, Ainge, who has experience as a pro player.

Ainge did not care if Steven had played in the NBA. He's a good coach and a good person. Ainge said the two go hand in hand.

"I believe in a pyramid of coaching," Ainge said. "The base of the pyramid is your personal integrity and character. Players see that. You can't fool them.

"Second of all is relationships. It takes time and effort to develop relationships and I believe he'll invest that time.

"Third is teaching. It's hard to teach if you don't have a relationship. It's hard to teach if you don't have character."

Ainge and Stevens appear like they will work well together.

But work toward what?

Good feelings are nice. But there is obviously more at stake.

The road ahead is long, but Stevens is supposed to coach these rebuilding Celtics into a champion someday?

If he does that, there will be only one word to say.

Wow.

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