This is the first in a series of profiles of potential candidates for Indiana’s vacant basketball head coaching position.
Candidate: Brad Stevens
Current position, tenure: Boston Celtics head coach since 2013
Previous Jobs: Butler head coach 2007-13. Butler assistant coach 2001-07.
Accomplishments: Has led the Celtics to the playoffs six times in seven completed seasons, including Eastern Conference Finals appearances in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Has won 56.1 percent of his regular season games and 50.7 percent of his playoff games in the NBA. Led Butler to back-to-back national championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011 and took the Bulldogs to five NCAA Tournaments in six seasons with a career college record of 166-49.
Statistical Hallmarks: Celtics are currently 11th in the NBA in offensive rating (113.0), 21st in defensive rating (112.1), 21st in pace (98.92). Last season they were fourth in offensive rating (112.8), fourth in defensive rating (106.5) and 17th in pace (99.92).
At Butler, Stevens’ teams ranked in the top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency in all six of his seasons according to KenPom.com, peaking at seventh in the 2009-10 season when they reached the national title game for the first time. They ranked in the top 50 in adjusted offensive efficiency four times, peaking at 14th in 2008 and they finished with an effective field goal percentage over 50 percent four times. They never ranked in the top 200 in tempo.
Why it might work: Stevens is Indiana’s dream hire and it’s hard to imagine a better candidate for the job. The Zionsville native grew up rooting for Indiana and idolizing Bob Knight as a coach. Unlike Knight, his development of exceptional coaching acumen didn’t come with a side of personal volatility, and he’s known as one of the most well-mannered and generally sane humans in the basketball coaching business. Landing Stevens would instantaneously put Indiana back on the map in every conceivable way from recruiting to fan interest and his skill as an X’s and O’s coach is not up for debate. It would be the home run hire of all home run hires and once Stevens’ name is even mentioned in the discussion everyone else feels like a disappointment.
On Stevens’ end, the Indiana job would be something of a dream come true, and he’d have instant job security and probably more money than he’s making now in Boston. The last public figures from the contract had him making $3.7 million per year, and IU’s Archie Miller was making close to that on his last contract. He’d get ample time to build the program and once he won, he’d probably never need to look for another job.
Why it might not work or happen: Stevens coaches in the best basketball league in the world for its most historically prestigious franchise. He sits in Red Auerbach’s chair and devises game plans on a nightly basis for how to deal with some of the best players to ever walk the Earth — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and a list that goes on. It is a prestigious club to be a part of because it presents the ultimate intellectual challenge for a coach. Coaches generally don’t leave those jobs unless they get pushed out — though that obviously happens frequently.
There are rumblings in Boston about the unhappiness of fans, who see the Celtics 20-19 current record that puts them sixth in the current Eastern Conference standings, which puts them a half game behind the Charlotte Hornets. With the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks at the top of the conference — each of whom has at least one superstar in a higher talent stratosphere than Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — it’s hard to imagine the Celtics putting enough together to win the league this time around and there are questions about how soon Boston might want a change in leadership, even though Stevens just signed a contract extension in August.
That being said, there’s still a lot of season left to be played because of the way the pandemic shifted the basketball calendar. The regular season doesn’t end until May 16 with a play-in tournament May 18-21 and the formal start of the playoffs on May 22. Even if the Celtics only make it one round, they could still be playing into June. The Hoosiers probably don’t want to wait that long for Stevens’ decision, and leaving any time before that would probably feel like quitting for Stevens, and that’s probably not a concept he’s interested in.
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