WALTHAM, Mass. – Brad Stevens says he had no desire to leave Butler – until the Celtics called.
Seventeen championships. Bill Russell. Red Auerbach. It was all too much for the 36-year-old Stevens to resist.
Boston introduced its 17th coach at a news conference Friday at the teams practice facility, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Stevens was his first choice to replace Doc Rivers.
Boston received a first-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Clippers for the rights to Rivers last week.
First of all, the Boston Celtics, like, wow – that is an incredible feeling, Stevens said about last weeks phone call from Ainge. Its an incredible honor and its certainly flattering.
Stevens received a six-year deal worth a reported $22 million and became the youngest head coach in the NBA.
My first phone call was to Brad Stevens. Brad was my first choice, Ainge said. I have watched and admired his poise, his intelligence, his teams – their effort, their execution under pressure. And Ive always looked at him the last few years as a guy who was a great candidate to be a head coach, never really thinking that it was going to be this soon in Celtic history. But hes a guy that I have targeted for a long time as a potential great coach.
With his wife, Tracy, acting as his agent, Stevens left a deal with Butler that was set to run through for 2022 for this awesome opportunity.
I am absolutely humbled to be sitting in this room and looking around at the (17 championship) banners that hang, he said. Im in awe of the Boston Celtics and the Boston Celtics organization and what has been accomplished by the players.
Butler made it to the NCAA championship game twice with Stevens leading the way. Becoming a mid-major powerhouse helped Butler land a spot in the new Big East basketball conference.
Stevens said it was hard to leave that behind, but he now looks toward helping the Celtics start a rebuilding process. Longtime stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have been traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
Whats next for the Celtics is unclear, and the natural questions are about guard Rajon Rondo, hardly considered the easiest guy to get along with, even for Rivers.
Stevens said he had already reached out to Rondo by phone and will spend time with him soon.
Theres no bigger fan of Rajon Rondo than me, Stevens said. I think the way he plays, his instinct, his ability to make other people better, he sees plays ahead of the play.
Ainge said the length of the contract shows the teams commitment to Stevens, who will now try to break the trend of college coaches moving into the NBA and failing, including John Calipari and Rick Pitino.
Certainly Im aware of those names and Im aware of everybody thats made the transition, Stevens said. Each situation is different, too. What I would look for in any work environment are people that are all on the same page, that all believe in getting the right people on the bus and believe in supporting each other.