Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Stevens Making the Leap from College to the NBA

With the sports news in an afternoon lull, it looked as if we were all going to be heading into the evening wondering what A-Rod will do in his couple of at-bats at Single-A Charleston.  And then... BOOM!
Out of nowhere, the Boston Celtics plucked the 36-year-old coaching prodigy, Brad Stevens, from the tight grasp of the Butler Bulldogs.  Stevens, who led Butler to two NCAA Championship games in his six seasons at the helm, has reportedly agreed on a six-year deal worth $22 million.  Having turned down the UCLA head coaching job earlier in the offseason, the Celtics must have been one of Stevens' dream jobs that he said would be the only way that he would leave Butler.

The opening on the Celtics bench was created when previous head coach Doc Rivers was traded (yes, the coach was traded) to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 first round pick.  The Rivers trade was one of two major deals that the Celtics have made in their rebuilding offseason; the other was sending superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as well as Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph (wait two Kris's with a "K"?) and three future first round picks.

With all of the movement at the head coaching position in the NBA this offseason, the Celtics' move to hire Stevens now joins the Nets and newly retired-player-turned-head-coach Jason Kidd as the two major coaching stories to watch going into next year.

Stevens' situation is particularly interesting for two reasons: 1) Stevens is making the leap from college to the NBA, and 2) the Celtics are rebuilding.  Stevens is certainly not the first coach to make the leap, but given his status and accomplishments at Butler, he is one of the most intriguing.

The Celtics are no stranger to hiring college coaches.  Prior to Doc Rivers, the last three Celtics coaches had a wealth of college head coaching experience.  John Carroll took over after Jim O'Brien's resignation.  Carroll was a one-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year at Duquense.  Before Carroll, it was O'Brien, who won the 1996 NCAA title as an assistant at Kentucky.  And of course, how could we forget Rick Pitino, who bolted from Kentucky after the 1996 NCAA title.  In hindsight, maybe it wasn't the best idea to give Pitino all of the keys to the organization.
Of the three coaches before Rivers, O'Brien had the best record going 139-119 for a .539 winning percentage.  The three combined to go 255-287 over seven seasons.  At Butler, Stevens went 166-49 in six seasons.

Stevens though offers great hope.  Although the Celtics may struggle this coming year, the franchise is clearly building for the future and are willing to ride it out with Stevens as indicated by the six-year deal.  It will be interesting to see how Stevens handles the NBA-size egos, although many have already made the joke that he coached better talent at Butler than he will this year with the Celtics.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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