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 on Wednesday. Stevens had turned down offers from bigger college programs.
“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 Wednesday night.
With aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on their way to the Brooklyn Nets, and Doc Rivers already coaching the Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics have been trying to get younger. In Stevens, they have a mentor who is younger than Garnett and wasn’t yet born when Bill Russell won his 11th NBA championship in 1969 – or even when John Havlicek added two more in the 1970s.
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 2 years later.
“Though he is young, I see Brad as a great leader who leads with impeccable character and a strong work ethic” Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said in a release. “I look forward to working with him towards Banner 18.”
The Celtics gave Stevens a 6-year deal worth about $22 million, according to a basketball official with knowledge of the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the terms were not public.
Since taking Butler of the mid-major Horizon League to the national championship game in 2010 and again in ’11, 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.”
The Celtics have nine first-rounders in the next 5 years.
“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 are very thankful to have had the opportunity to celebrate so many wonderful things together.”