Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Tuesday that he’s flattered by being mentioned as a candidate for the head-coaching opening at Indiana University but that he’s “extremely grateful” to be the coach of the Celtics.
“It means a lot,” Stevens said of the groundswell of support for him to return to his home state and take over the program at its flagship university. “It means a lot. I know that … listen, I’ve got a lot of friends back there. I’ve got a lot of people that are really important to me there. My dad’s still there. That does mean a lot. I won’t act like that doesn’t. Like I said earlier today, it’s flattering.
“But I also realize that I’m the coach of the Celtics and that’s — it’s been an amazing opportunity, an amazing challenge every day for the last eight years and I’m extremely grateful for that.”
Stevens was born and raised in Zionsville, Indiana, just northeast of Indianapolis and a little over an hour north of Bloomington, where Indiana is located. He played college basketball in the state at DePauw University, and then coached Butler to back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and 2011 before leaving to coach the Celtics in 2013.
Despite his success with the Celtics, including going to the Eastern Conference finals three of the past four seasons and getting a contract extension during the 2020 playoffs, any time a prominent college job becomes available, Stevens’ name is floated as a potential candidate. But that noise is only ratcheted up by the possibility of him returning to Indiana and restoring it to the glory days it enjoyed under Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight.
Archie Miller was fired earlier this week after four disappointing seasons with the Hoosiers. Indiana hasn’t made the Final Four since 2002 and hasn’t won a national championship since 1987.
“Listen, every job has its challenges,” Stevens said when asked about why Indiana hasn’t won lately. “Every job has it’s great things. I don’t really wanna act like I know. I know — and I said this today — obviously, I have a great affinity for that state and basketball in that state. That place was a huge part of what drove my passion for basketball. In fact, it was the central thing. I don’t know what challenges each place has because you don’t work there. But I know when you’re a kid growing up in that state, basketball means a lot and the college programs in the state mean a ton. And, for me growing up, it was certainly IU.
“But you know, hey, I think Archie is a good coach and he did a really good job of preparing [current Celtic] Romeo [Langford]. I thought when Romeo came in you could tell he was advanced in a lot of ways. I’ve known Arch for a while, I haven’t talked to him much. I think, in coaching, you always recognize how hard it is to be good, how hard it is to win.”
Stevens was much happier to talk about former Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry taking another Big Ten coaching job, as Shrewsberry — who also coached with Stevens at Butler — was named the head coach of Penn State University earlier this week.
“I said in my little quote that they asked, the greatest compliment you can give somebody on a sports team is that they made everybody around them better,” Stevens said. “I used to play with Micah in open gym, traveling across the city of Indianapolis when we were 16, 17 years old, when we didn’t hardly know each other. And it was obvious then he was a guy you wanted to play with, because he knew how to play and he’d get everybody the ball and he made his team better. Then I played against him in college, and it was the same thing. And I worked with him at Butler, it was the same thing. We both had young families together; they’re always there for us. And spending six years with him here. He’s as good as it gets, he’s got great perspective. He’s a great basketball coach. Obviously, I think going back to Purdue was a great move for him because it got him back into the mindset of recruiting, Matt [Painter] let him call the plays and run the offense at Purdue, which tells you a lot about Matt Painter and the way that he approaches things. I’m happy for him. I’m really happy for him.”