Butler University head men's basketball coach Brad Stevens has taken the head coaching job with the Boston Celtics. It's the first time the Celtics have hired a college coach since Rick Pitino in 1997.
The university announced Stevens' decision in a press release Wednesday afternoon.
"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 the release.
"It's a great opportunity for him, but in the same way, it means he's leaving our program," said Butler athletic director Barry Collier. "While we have every confidence our student-athletes and our program will move on without skipping a beat, we appreciate Brad and have a special relationship with him."
Stevens, 36, met with his Butler players on campus Wednesday evening. He spoke with Eyewitness News sports reporter Rich Nye as he left the parking lot.
"It's been a hard day," he said.
Collier said Stevens' decision moved quickly.
"We literally have learned about this earlier today," Collier said. "It is a somewhat sudden thing, but in today's world, that's how a lot of this works."
"We were stunned. It still kind of hurts right now, but like I said, I wish him the best. I'm very proud of what he's accomplished here and, you know, I wish him the best of luck up there and I know he's going to turn the Celtics organization around and probably make them a championship contender," said Butler senior Khyle Marshall.
Collier said the search for a new head coach is already underway.
"Butler is a great place and we have an excellent program that has been possible by the efforts of lots of people, our student athletes our coaches and that will continue," he said.
Stevens has compiled a 166-49 record in six seasons with the Bulldogs, including a 12-5 mark in the NCAA tournament. He twice led Butler to the national championship game, falling just short of a title in 2010 and 2011.
"In keeping with The Butler Way, Brad has given his talent to our University with exceptional generosity, integrity, and humility," Danko said. "His record as the winningest coach in NCAA history during his first six years as head coach, his leadership of Butler's dual Final Four runs, and his work ethic have made him a beloved member of our community."
"He's not a 'What can I get out of this?' guy. It's a special opportunity he had," Collier said. "I feel like this is something he wants to do and we're going to support him in that."
The Celtics have announced a Friday morning news conference to introduce Stevens and his family to Boston.
"Brad and I share a lot of the same values," said Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge on the team's website. "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." An ESPN report says that the Celtics were looking at bringing Stevens on board as soon as the deal to send former Celtics coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers was finalized.
Stevens, a Zionsville native, earned four varsity letters at DePauw University. He joined the Butler program in 2001 and was named head coach in April 2007, when Todd Lickliter took the head coaching job at the University of Iowa.
"We have done everything we can to keep Brad here at Butler; however, the Celtics team has offered Brad and his family a unique opportunity with which no university can compete," Danko said.
Stevens will reportedly sign a six-year, $22 million contract with the Celtics.
Butler University news release
Brad Stevens, head coach of the Butler University men's basketball team, today announced his acceptance of the head coach position of the Boston Celtics.
"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," said Stevens. "We truly love Butler University and Indianapolis, and are very thankful to have had the opportunity to celebrate so many wonderful things together. What makes Butler truly unique is the people that we have been so blessed to work with. When it comes time for our kids to look at schools, we will start with Butler University." Stevens and his wife, Tracy, have a young son and daughter.
In his six seasons as Butler's head men's basketball coach, Stevens compiled a record of success unmatched in NCAA annals. The 36-year-old Butler coach has led the Bulldogs to a 166-49 record, including a 12-5 record in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. Four conference regular season championships, three league tournament titles, and six trips to postseason tournament play. His 166 wins is the most for any NCAA Division I basketball coach over the first six years to start a career.
Stevens owns the top two single season win totals in Butler and Horizon League history, and he's the only coach in school and league history to lead a team to back-to-back NCAA Division I national championship games in 2010 and 2011.
In 2009-2010, Stevens engineered the most remarkable season in Butler basketball history. The Bulldogs posted a 33-5 overall record, the Horizon League's first 18-0 conference mark and fourth overall unbeaten record, a fourth consecutive league regular season championship, a second conference tourney crown. The Bulldogs were nationally-ranked for the fourth straight year, compiled a school-record 25-game win streak, which was the longest in the nation. Stevens was named NABC All-District 12 Coach, and he was a finalist for several additional national coaching awards. Butler ended the season as the No. 2-ranked team in the final ESPN/USA Today national poll.
"In keeping with The Butler Way, Brad has given his talent to our University with exceptional generosity, integrity, and humility," said President James M. Danko. "His record as the winningest coach in NCAA history during his first six years as head coach, his leadership of Butler's dual Final Four® runs, and his work ethic have made him a beloved member of our community."
Danko added, "We have done everything we can to keep Brad here at Butler; however, the Celtics team has offered Brad and his family a unique opportunity with which no university can compete."
Butler has begun the process of hiring a new head coach to lead the men's basketball team in its inaugural year of BIG EAST Conference competition.
"Brad is leaving a great legacy and an excellent foundation for us to build on" said Vice President and Athletic Director Barry Collier. "Our athletics program has an extremely bright future, and we are confident that Butler's first year in the BIG EAST will be an outstanding one."
Stevens' move big news on social media
News of Brad Stevens' departure from Butler University continues to be the talk of social media. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said on Twitter Wednesday: "Best of luck to Brad Stevens. @Celtics borrow another Hoosier basketball legend."
Former Indiana University basketball star Cody Zeller, who was recently picked by the Charlotte Bobcats in the NBA Draft, said on Twitter: "Wow! Brad Stevens to the Celtics?! Great hire! I have so much respect for Coach Stevens!"