Stevens family readies for next big challenge

Tracy Stevens
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When the Boston Celtics introduced new head coach Brad Stevens at news conference July 5 at the NBA basketball team's training facility in Waltham, Massachusetts, the president of basketball operations Danny Ainge thanked Steven's wife, Tracy, and recognized her influence.

"The biggest supporter we had in this was Tracy. Thanks to Tracy for giving him the extra nudge to give this a try," Ainge said. "She is also his agent and attorney, so she wasn't that easy to deal with."

She helped Brad pen a six-year, $22 million deal.

"I am the only coach in the country who pays 100 percent to his agent, that's how that goes and how it's always gone," Brad said.

Stevens twice led the Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA title game. He replaces Doc Rivers, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. At the family's summer lake spot, Lake Wawasee in Syracuse, Tracy talked with WTHR exclusively about the deal, her role and her fears.

"Everything about Boston scares me, but you know, it's just one of those things you just have to jump in feet first and say 'I am going to try'," Tracy said.

She says representing Brad is easy.

"I am really only involved from a very specific legal review part of the contract and I worked with the general counsel over at the Celtics to work out those specifics, but it's an easy process," she said. "Boston called Brad, so lots of time an agent is the one who is reaching out looking for someone for those jobs, the phone call came directly to Brad.

"It also involves one less person, which is not a bad thing in this day and age. I think a lot of people were surprised by this news, but by it just being Brad and I we were able to keep it pretty quiet. We kept quiet with the idea that if he decides not to go, you don't want his players or especially recruits knowing that he was even thinking about it."

Tracy says it took ten days to two weeks to make a final decision.

"His initial reaction after thinking about it for a couple of days was, 'No, I am not going to do it,' and I did push back at little bit and said, 'I really think, just spend another day thinking about it, give it just a little bit more thought,' and he did and ultimately that's when he gave them the go ahead to come in and meet," she said.

The face-to-face meeting was in the morning July 3.

"We weren't 100 percent sure, we wanted to make sure the owners were on board," Tracy said.

She wore a Butler shirt to the meeting around the dining room table at her mother-in-law's Zionsville home. It was the last day of four weeks of the basketball camp the couple runs at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

"We had 160 seventh and eighth graders at Butler that day for the last day and construction at Hinkle cut the water," Tracy said.

She had to leave the talks early to make sure the toilets were running. She says the good humor about the dilemma made it a comfortable conversation. Shortly after 5:30 that night, it was official. Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier sent a press release announcing that Stevens was leaving.

"Brad is not one to cry, but he cried three times that day. He cried when he told Barry. He cried as he wrote his statement for the press release and he cried when he told his team. It was an incredibly emotional, difficult day. I think of five times in my whole life when I've seen him cry and three of them were on that day. It was a hard decision," Tracy said.

It's not the first time Tracy and Brad took a risk and changed direction. In 2000, he left his job at Eli Lilly and Company, just a year after he graduated, to volunteer under then-Butler head coach Thad Matta.

"He's a good saver and so he had saved a good amount of money that year at Lilly. He said, 'I am going to try because I can, because I'm 23, we were not married yet we don't have kids, let's try.'" And I said, 'Okay, let's do it' because I was something he had to try, if he didn't, he'd regret it for his whole life and that was very clear," Tracy said.

Brad didn't go long without a paycheck. Soon, he was offered a low-paying administrative position as coordinator of basketball operations. The next year, Matta left and new head coach Todd Lickliter promoted Stevens to a full-time assistant coach. Seven years later, Stevens was named Butler head coach. When he resigned July 3, he had been with Butler for 13 years.

"I think maybe Butler was a dream job and this (Celtics head coach) is like the double bonus dream job. I don't know how else to describe it, its just more than he ever expected," Tracy said.

Brad and Tracy have been together since their sophomore year at DePauw University. They are now 36 and will celebrate their ten-year wedding anniversary this summer with their two children Brady and Kinsley, ages 7 and 4.

Tracy left her job practicing contract and labor law with Bingham McHale LLP after Kinsley's birth. Tracy says her job now is to run the household so Brad can focus on coaching.

"He's brilliant. He's incredibly brilliant. He's a fantastic basketball coach, but he is not a good housekeeper and he is not a handyman," Tracy said.

When Brad is working, Tracy is watching and she has learned to read his sideline show.

"I know when he is animated, it's because it's what he thinks the players need. When he takes the jacket off, I'm like 'Oh, jacket came off, this is not a good sign'," she said.

After a loss, Tracy says Brad is "miserable, miserable." In fact, she says his competitive nature is what too many people underestimate.

"Brad is miserable if I beat him in 'Words with Friends' I mean, after a loss, he's miserable," Tracy said.

Tracy says the intense 82-game NBA season will mean Brad will have to recover more quickly.

"The losses hurt more than he enjoys the wins and so that will be interesting to see how that goes in the NBA," Tracy said.

She plans to attend home games, but of the 41 away games, only the matchups in Cleveland and Indianapolis are on her wish list. She is looking forward to a longer offseason in the summer. It is when they plan to regroup at what she calls "Brad's Happy Place" - Lake Wawasee.

"This is where we will come. When he gets up in the morning and has his coffee on the pier, he just looks 100 percent at peace. Everyone said, 'Are you going to sell this place?' and we are not. We are going to keep our house up at the lake and it's going to be our connection to Indiana," Tracy said. "It's hard because it is a 'goodbye, we will see you in a couple months.' But somehow going to the NBA makes it a little bit easier, because it's so different, because we can still be Butler fans. He loves Butler so much that he couldn't leave it for another school."

Stevens family slideshow