Off to greener pastures
Stevens leaving Butler to become head coach of NBA's Celtics
BOSTON -- Butler's historic Hinkle Fieldhouse couldn't compete with the Boston Garden and all those NBA championship banners hanging from its rafters.
The Boston Celtics hired Brad Stevens away from the school he led to back-to-back NCAA title games, putting the 36-year-old coach in charge of their brand new rebuilding effort Wednesday. Stevens had turned down offers from bigger college programs, but couldn't resist the lure of the NBA's most-decorated franchise.
''There are some brands in sports, and in the world of basketball the Celtics are one of those,'' Butler athletic director Barry Collier said in an on-campus news conference on Wednesday night.
Stevens becomes the 17th head coach of the Celtics. It's the first time the Celtics have hired a college coach since Rick Pitino in 1997, and their first coach with no NBA experience of any kind since Alvin ''Doggie'' Julian, who was hired in 1948 and gave way to Red Auerbach two years later..
"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.
"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."
Stevens spent the past six years as the head coach of Butler, twice leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA championship game. Stevens, who never won fewer than 22 games at Butler, was the youngest coach to reach the Final Four since Bob Knight in 1973.
Stevens led the Bulldogs to a 166-49 record, including a 12-5 record in the NCAA tournament. His accomplishments include four conference regular-season championships, three league tournament titles and six trips to postseason tournament play. His 166 wins is the most for any NCAA Division I basketball coach during the first six years to start a career.
Stevens owns the top two single-season win totals in Butler and Horizon League history, and he's the only coach in school and league history to lead a team to back-to-back national championship games, in 2010 and '11.
In 2009-10, Stevens engineered the most remarkable season in Butler basketball history. The Bulldogs posted a 33-5 overall record, the Horizon League's first 18-0 conference mark and fourth overall unbeaten record, a fourth consecutive league regular-season championship and a second conference tourney crown. The Bulldogs were nationally ranked for the fourth consecutive year and compiled a school-record 25-game win streak, which was the longest in the nation. They lost to Duke 61-59 in the national championship game when a last-second, half-court shot bounced off the backboard and rim.
"In keeping with the Butler Way, Brad has given his talent to our university with exceptional generosity, integrity, and humility," Butler president James M. Danko said. "His record as the winningest coach in NCAA history during his first six years as head coach, his leadership of Butler's dual Final Four runs, and his work ethic have made him a beloved member of our community."
"We have done everything we can to keep Brad here at Butler; however, the Celtics team has offered Brad and his family a unique opportunity with which no university can compete."
A native of Zionsville, Ind., Stevens was a three-time academic All-America nominee while earning four varsity letters at DePauw University, before graduating with a degree in economics. He later joined the Butler program as the coordinator of basketball operations under then-coach Thad Matta, before being named head coach in 2007.
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Stevens takes over a team that is three seasons removed from an appearance in the NBA Finals; the Celtics won their unprecedented 17th championship in 2008. But when Boston was eliminated by the New York Knicks in the first round of this year's playoffs, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge decided to rebuild.
He allowed coach Doc Rivers to take over the Los Angeles Clippers, extracting a first-round draft choice in return. Amid last week's NBA draft, the Celtics and Nets agreed to a deal that would send Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn for a package of players along with three first-round draft picks.
Now Stevens, who is younger than Garnett, will be the one to work with those players.
"Brad and I share a lot of the same values," Ainge said. "Though he is young, I see Brad as a great leader who leads with impeccable character and a strong work ethic. His teams always play hard and execute on both ends of the court. Brad is a coach who has already enjoyed lots of success, and I look forward to working with him toward Banner 18."
Ainge met with Stevens at his home in the Indianapolis area along with Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca and worked out the deal Wednesday morning.
''It's a wonderful opportunity with a historic franchise,'' Danko said. ''Brad is a very bright, very articulate, and a wonderful, wonderful person who's handled this as well as he's handled everything else you've seen him do.''
Stevens had been courted by Illinois and UCLA, among others. Butler just joined the Big East, but Stevens won't be going with them.
''I didn't treat it as inevitable [that he would leave],'' said Collier, who noted that the school had signed Stevens through 2025. ''I looked at it like every year Brad was our coach, it was another good year for Butler.''
Butler has begun the process of hiring a new head coach.
"Brad is leaving a great legacy and an excellent foundation for us to build on," Collier said. "Our athletics program has an extremely bright future, and we are confident that Butler's first year in the Big East will be an outstanding one."
Butler Athletics and the Boston Celtics contributed to this report.