Stevens Couldn't Pass on Celtics Opportunity
WALTHAM, Mass. – Brad Stevens was the bachelor of the basketball coaching world. Everyone wanted him.
On Wednesday, he gave his rose to the Boston Celtics, and both sides believe this marriage will be a long and successful one.
Big-time programs from across the country have courted Stevens, a 36-year-old who is wise beyond his years, for the past three-plus years. Any time a top-of-the-line head coaching position opened up, you could be sure that Stevens would receive a call to gauge his interest.
Prior to Wednesday, nothing had piqued Stevens’ interest enough to pry him away from Butler University. He reportedly said no to UCLA, the most storied collegiate basketball program in the country. It has been rumored that as recently as this summer, he also spurned an inquiry from another NBA team.
Then Danny Ainge and the Celtics came a calling, and everything changed.
“First of all: the Boston Celtics. Like… wow,” Stevens said on Friday, remembering his first thoughts after discussing the job on the phone with Ainge. “That is an incredible feeling. It’s an incredible honor, and certainly flattering.”
The tradition, the pride and the lore of this franchise was something that Stevens could not turn away from. This place had something that everywhere else did not.
“This is a great, great opportunity,” said Stevens. “This was the right thing for us and the right thing for our family.”
Stevens confided to the media that he knew the Celtics were the right opportunity for him and his family before he even met Boston’s leadership in person.
“Having been fortunate enough to have been asked about other opportunities in the past, that decision was – we were pretty well set on what the decision would be when they arrived, because of the fact that we were meeting in person,” he said.
“We felt at home. We felt that it was a group, again, that really saw the world like we did.”
Stevens just realized that notion over the course of the past week. Ainge, on the other hand, had believed it for some time.
Ainge has kept his eye on Stevens for a long, long time. Ainge saw something in Stevens far before the coach burst onto the national scene in 2010. In fact, Ainge has a story and a witness to prove that fact.
“So in 2010, (Celtics co-owner) Steve (Pagliuca) and I went to the championship game against Duke,” Ainge explained. “As I sat there, I said to Steve at that time, ‘That’s the best coach in college basketball right down there on the sidelines,’ and he thought I was talking about Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski).”
Stevens has been on Ainge’s radar ever since in the event that Boston’s head coaching position opened up. That’s why Stevens was Target No. 1 in Ainge’s search to replace Doc Rivers.
“I just love how his teams play. I love his poise on the sideline. More than anything, in talking to Brad over the years about prospects for the draft, I always valued his input. I talk to a lot of coaches, and for some reason he was just a guy whose opinions I trusted.”
Ainge and Stevens will now bounce their opinions off of each other every day, and for a long time. Both parties are ecstatic to be united, and they truly believe that this will be a long-lasting relationship that forges consistent success in Boston.
“A six-year contract speaks loud,” said Ainge. “I don’t think there’s any other coach in the NBA with a six-year commitment from their team. We understand – we’re investing in him as a person.”
Likewise, Stevens is prepared to invest himself into this organization for the foreseeable future. He’s wants to do everything he can to lead this franchise into its next era of greatness.
And that’s the key factor here. This is the Boston Celtics. This is greatness.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Stevens couldn’t turn down.