On June 25th, when the Boston Celtics lost their long-time head coach in Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers, Celtics GM Danny Ainge already had a plan. While Celtics fans - and maybe some Celtics players - mourned the loss of Rivers, Ainge was on to the next one - one that he had his eye on for some time.
That next one was Brad Stevens.
Stevens was introduced as the 17th head coach in Celtics history, and the youngest active coach in the NBA, on Friday at the Celtics training facility in Waltham, MA.
"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 I've always looked at him the last few years as a guy that was a great candidate to be a head coach, never really thinking that it was going to be this soon in Celtic history, but was a guy that I had targeted for a long time as a potential great coach."
Ainge told a story about how he and Celtics part-owner Steve Pagliuca attended Butler-Duke 2010 national championship, where Ainge said the best coach in college basketball was on the sidelines. Pagliuca − a Duke alum - assumed he was talking about legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, but Ainge was talking about Butler's Stevens.
Butler lost the game, and lost in the championship again in 2011, but it was pretty obvious that Stevens built a superb program. Now, he joins a Celtics team that isn't built the way it has been over the last six seasons, and begins the rebuilding process. It's clear that Stevens is going to be a big part of that process.
"It was a difficult decision for Brad, leaving a wonderful situation at Butler and what he's built there with his staff and his athletic director and his players. But we're excited to have him. We're excited that he agreed to come here and coach, and Brad's success will be determined a lot by what we do.
"What I do to help him and support him, what ownership does to support us. We've been through this rebuilding-type of process before, and we're all better for it and we all know what we're about to embark on. And he will have great support from ownership and from management. Yes, there will be transition from college game to the NBA game, but we will give him the support that he needs to make that transition fast.
Stevens took time to specifically thank his wife and members of his family, everyone at Butler, and the Boston Celtics organization for the way they've handled the transition.
"Obviously it's an honor and privilege to be here," Stevens said. "… I am absolutely humbled to be sitting in this room and looking around me with the banners that hang. As any young basketball fan was or is, just in awe of the Boston Celtics, the Boston Celtics organization and all that has been accomplished by the many players, coaches, and everybody else that has worked in this building to help them do what they've done in the past.
"And one of the things I'm so thrilled about is opportunity to work in a place that has such a high standard but also places such a value on culture. It's very important. I'm a process-driven guy, I'm a day-by-day guy. I believe in relationships, I believe in trying to be the very best that you can be. And that has clearly something that has been stressed in every single conversation I've had with everyone here, starting with those multiple phone conversations I had with Danny."
Stevens has spoken to Rajon Rondo, who he says he's a huge fan of, and looks forward to speaking with the rest of his players as soon as possible. He also plans on meeting up with Rondo and "talking ball" when the opportunity presents itself.
Check out CSNNE.com for much more on the Brad Stevens press conference, including video, from A. Sherrod Blakely and Jessica Camerato.