In arguably biggest news of offseason, Brad Stevens pulls unthinkable, leaving Butler to replace Doc Rivers as Boston Celtics head coach. (Photo courtesy of Butler University)
For several years now, nearly every high-profile college coaching vacancy has had the name of Brad Stevens linked to it, and for several years, Stevens repeatedly rebuffed each one to remain at Butler University, where he had been the head coach since 2007.
The NBA, on the other hand, is a different story.
In a twist of fate that is every bit as shocking as it is intriguing, Stevens has agreed to become the new head coach of the Boston Celtics, replacing Doc Rivers, who is now the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. Stevens will be introduced at a Friday morning press conference, according to ESPN's Andy Katz.
The 36-year-old Stevens, who turns 37 in October and is five months younger than former Celtic Kevin Garnett; who will officially be traded to the Brooklyn Nets when the deal can be finalized next week, compiled a 166-49 career record as head coach at Butler, and garnered notoriety for his humble personality and rapid ascent into the coaching elite after the Bulldogs nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, losing a heartbreaking national championship game to Duke in 2010 before returning to the final one year later against Connecticut. Stevens also gained widespread acclaim in college basketball circles for his use of advanced statistics and tempo-free metrics that helped him understand and approach the game in a modern and unconventional fashion.
"Brad and I share a lot of the same values," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a release issued by the organization. "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."
The Celtics are not strangers to hiring successful college coaches, as the organization made a similar bold hire in 1997 when it plucked Rick Pitino from the University of Kentucky fresh off two consecutive national championship game appearances, including a championship win in 1996. Pitino, now the reigning national champion at Louisville of course, went 102-146 at the helm in Beantown over parts of four seasons before returning to the college ranks at Louisville following Denny Crum's retirement.
Where Butler goes now to replace its iconic leader is anyone's guess, as the Bulldogs will now have a new coach to guide them through their first season in the newly restructured Big East, their third conference affiliation in as many years after competing in the Atlantic 10, and Horizon League before that. A rumored candidate is former Butler coach Todd Lickliter, Stevens' predecessor at Butler before a failed stint at the University of Iowa.