Brad Stevens flies to visit former Butler player recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma

Andrew Smith Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens continues to show exactly what made his tenure at Butler so special.

Stevens, who reached two NCAA championship games at Butler and is now the head coach of the Boston Celtics, recently flew into Indianapolis to visit his former player, Andrew Smith, who is ill.

Smith began playing basketball professionally in Lithuania in September before receiving the news that he had a tumor in his chest. He was later diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and returned home to Zionsville, Ind., to receive treatment.

On Tuesday, Smith’s wife Samantha said that Andrew received a visit from Stevens.

Stevens’ Celtics hosted the Mavericks on Sunday, played at Milwaukee on Monday and host the Spurs on Wednesday night. Stevens made time in between all that to stop by and see his former player.

Smith played in 134 career games with Butler from 2009 to last year. He was a freshman when they reached the championship game in 2010 and a sophomore when they made it back to the title game the next year. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. He is ranked 25th on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,147 points and 12th with 648 career rebounds.

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Rajon Rondo sounds interested in playing for Brad Stevens

Rajon RondoAs soon as the Boston Celtics announced the hiring of Brad Stevens as their new head coach, people began to wonder that that meant for Rajon Rondo’s future. Rondo is 27 and recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his knee. Though he is one of the best point guards in the league, he is notoriously difficult to coach. Many speculated that he could be traded during the Celtics’ rebuilding process.

But let’s not move too fast on that speculation.

Stevens spoke to most of the players on the Celtics’ roster on Thursday, including Rondo, and the conversation went well. Rondo also seemed to have a pretty positive attitude about the hire from the moment he spoke to GM Danny Ainge.

“[Rondo said,] ‘Oh, Is that the guy that coached Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack?'” recounted Ainge, via ESPN Boston. “I go, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s the guy.’ [Rondo said,] ‘Oh, yeah. That sounds great.'”

Stevens also seemed to glow about Rondo.

“I can’t wait to sit down with him,” Stevens said of Rondo at his press conference on Friday. “Because he’s not only a really good basketball player, he’s really intelligent, and you can see that in his game. And I think he’s got that, not only an intelligence about the way he plays, but also an instinctive ability to see the next play coming. You can see that on both ends of the floor.

“Combine that with a good competitive spirit, and you’ve really got what he’s been, and that’s a really, really good player, one of the best players in this league. I can’t wait to meet him. I can’t wait to spend time with him. I hope that he can feel like, at the end of the day, he’s learned a thing or two from me, but I’m guessing I’ll learn a lot more from him.”

In addition to the initial positive reports about the two, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe says Rondo is approaching the hire with a “completely open mind.”

Rondo has two years left on his current deal with Boston. CBS Sports says the Detroit Pistons expressed interest in Rondo in case the C’s makes him available. Detroit also agreed to a free agent deal with Josh Smith, so they’re being aggressive, but I don’t know if they have enough to interest Ainge.

Boston Celtics hire Brad Stevens as new head coach

Brad StevensThe Boston Celtics announced on Wednesday that they have hired Brad Stevens as their new head coach, replacing Doc Rivers.

The Celtics operated in completely stealth manner; there were no reports about them pursuing any candidates much less nearing a hire.

“Brad and I share a lot of the same values,” said Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge in a press release issued by the team. “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 towards Banner 18.”

Stevens, 36, will be the 17th coach in the franchise’s storied history. He spent the last six season as the coach of Butler University, leading the program to two national championship games. His 166 wins were the most of any coach in his first six years with a program.

Stevens was frequently mentioned as a top coaching candidate for numerous collegiate vacancies, including the UCLA job that went to Steve Alford, but he turned them all down to stay at Butler. This was too good of an opportunity to turn down.

“The Celtics team has offered Brad and his family a unique opportunity with which no university can compete,” the school’s president said.

“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 press release issued by the university.

Stevens is entering a tricky situation. The Celtics recently traded aging stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets. Point guard Rajon Rondo is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his knee. The franchise is clearly rebuilding, and their only All-Star is Rondo, who is known for being a head case.

The Celtics are a storied franchise, but they’re likely headed for a few sub-par seasons in a row.

Brad Stevens showing commitment to Butler over UCLA?

Brad StevensBrad Stevens is at the top of UCLA’s wish list when it comes to their search for a new head basketball coach, and some reports indicate that the interest is mutual, but a tweet sent by the coach suggests he may prefer to stay at Butler.

Stevens had long been believed to be at the top of the Bruins’ list, which is no surprise considering his success at Butler has made him a top candidate for any major program with a coaching vacancy. Stevens is only 36, and he led the Bulldogs to the national championship game in 2010 and 2011. He received offers from a number of schools after the 2009-2010 season, but he chose to sign a long-term contract extension with Butler through the 2021-2022 season.

KTLA in Los Angeles reported that Stevens was on the UCLA campus Wednesday to discuss a potential contract. ESPN reported Thursday that Stevens may be in contract negotiations — which would mesh with KTLA’s report — but they say another source dismissed that claim. Additionally, FOX Sports’ Jon Crispin — a former Bruins basketball player — reported that Stevens is probably going to be the next UCLA coach and that he was in Westwood Thursday.

However, Stevens sent a tweet Friday morning that either affirmed his commitment to the Bulldogs, or is a ploy to gain more leverage in negotiations with UCLA:

Given the way Stevens has turned down so many other offers, this tweet seems to be an indication that he is sticking with Butler.

The Bruins previously were believed to be in pursuit of Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart, but he signed an extension to remain at VCU. Other coaches mentioned in connection with the search are NC State coach Mark Gottfried and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, both of whom are former Bruins assistants. There are plenty of coaches available with NBA experience, but ESPN believes Guerrero will go after a college coach.

Other hot names this year are Gregg Marshall, who has led Wichita State to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, and Andy Enfield, who has taken Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16. Villanova’s Jay Wright and Purdue’s Matt Painter have loosely been mentioned in the search, though either of those coaches seem unlikely as possibilities.

Stevens is accomplished enough where he seems like he would be able to choose the job he wants. There are a handful of truly elite coaching jobs in college basketball; Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and UCLA probably make the list. To get the jobs at Duke or Carolina, Stevens would have to wait until Coach K or Roy Williams retire. UCLA is open now. If he is ever considering leaving Butler, this would be a good opportunity to go to one of the top programs in the country.

Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart Prove Elite Coaching Can Get You to the Final Four

The Final Four is set, and the four teams headed to Houston are Kentucky, Connecticut, Butler, and Virginia Commonwealth. While both Kentucky and Connecticut are from power conferences and have the pedigree to warrant a Final Four berth, many people are surprised to see Butler return and VCU to be there at all.

Both Butler and VCU did not build their teams recruiting 4 and 5-star high school players, and you won’t find many McDonald’s All Americans on their rosters. Neither school is an NBA player factory unlike their colleagues in the Final Four. So how did Butler and VCU get to college basketball’s ultimate stage? Superior coaching is how.

All four schools have elite coaches, and in the case of Butler and VCU, their two coaches are some of the best around, and have the brains, organization, and personalities to get their kids to play at a high level.

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Brad Stevens Says Billy Donovan Outcoached Him in Butler Upset

After Butler pulled off a shocking comeback and overtime win over Florida in the Elite 8 Saturday, Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens embraced Billy Donovan and said the Florida coach outcoached him. His words and praise were quite surprising given the way Butler came back to win the game, and the words were probably a weak consolation for Donovan.

A day later, Stevens appeared on CBS and explained why he said that. “I’ve just got a lot of respect for them,” Stevens said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him. I thought they did a great job. It’s another one of these games that comes down to the last possessions and our guys’ will to win just kind of carried us through.”

Stevens may be generous and kind towards Florida in victory, but I’ll say what he didn’t: he outcoached Donovan. When Butler was down by nine with seven minutes left, Stevens went to his bench for a lift and got it in the form of a three-pointer from Chrishawn Hopkins. Then, the most egregious offense by Donovan was allowing his team to slow things down offensively and stop going for points to maintain their lead. The lack of aggression from the Gators allowed Butler to charge back and seize momentum.

Lastly, Florida was hurt by Erving Walker in a similar fashion that William Buford hurt Ohio State. Walker was 1-for-10 and only had four assists, hardly creating for his teammates. It was the worst time for the 39% three-point shooter to go cold and it cost his team. Ultimately, Stevens was being generous and unnecessarily gave credit to Donovan because he was not outcoached in the game.