The Boston Celtics handed Butler University’s Brad Stevens his first coaching assignment in the National Basketball Association a week after agreeing to let Doc Rivers leave for the Los Angeles Clippers.
At 36, Stevens, who has never played or coached in the NBA, will be the youngest team leader in the league. He’ll sign a six-year contract, the Boston Herald reported, after the Celtics said in a statement last night that terms wouldn’t be disclosed.
In six years as coach at Butler, Stevens took the Bulldogs to the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship game in 2010 and 2011. He had a 166-49 record, including a 12-5 mark in the NCAA tournament, and won four conference regular-season championships and three league tournament titles. His 166 wins are the most for an NCAA Division I basketball coach over the first six years of his career.
“Though he is young, I see Brad as a great leader who leads with impeccable character and a strong work ethic,” Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said. “His teams always play hard and execute on both ends of the court. Brad is a coach who has already enjoyed lots of success.”
The last Boston coach hired from college basketball was Rick Pitino, who joined in 1997 from the University of Kentucky. The Celtics never reached the playoffs in four seasons under Pitino, going 102-146 during his tenure.
Stevens will be Boston’s 17th coach after it agreed to let Rivers leave for Los Angeles in the NBA’s first swap of a coach for compensation since 2007. Rivers will sign a three-year, $21 million deal with the Clippers, ESPN said at the time.
The Celtics agreed to release Rivers from the final three years of his contract on June 25 in exchange for a 2015 unprotected first-round draft pick.
Rivers, 51, coached the Celtics for nine seasons, guiding the team to seven playoff appearances and the 2008 championship, their record 17th NBA title.
Stevens, who left Eli Lilly & Co. to volunteer with the Butler Bulldogs before the 2001-02 season, will take charge of a Celtics team in transition. Boston finished the 2012-13 regular season with a 41-40 record for seventh place in the Eastern Conference and lost in the first round of the postseason to the New York Knicks, their earliest exit since missing the playoffs in 2006-07.
Rivers won the championship in his fourth season in Boston with a team led by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Boston agreed in principle to trade Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets, ESPN reported June 27.
The Nets, who hired Jason Kidd as coach three weeks ago, will send forward Gerald Wallace and first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 to Boston, ESPN said. The Celtics also will get Tornike Shengelia, Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans and rights to the expiring contract of Kris Humphries.
After coaching Butler to its most successful season in 2010, Stevens was rewarded with a 12-year contract extension by the Indianapolis-based school. The Bulldogs lost the NCAA final to top-seeded Duke University, snapping a 25-game winning streak, the longest in the nation.
The Bulldogs finished the season with a school-record 33 wins against five losses and became the first Horizon League team to reach the NCAA Final Four. The Bulldogs went 18-0 in the Horizon League to become the only unbeaten conference champion in the nation that season.
Butler, which is set to play in the Big East for the first time this season, also reached the 2011 NCAA title game, losing 53-41 to the University of Connecticut.
“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 statement on Butler’s website.