Brad Stevens says he had no desire to leave Butler — until the Celtics called.
Seventeen championships. Bill Russell. Red Auerbach. It was all too much for the 36-year-old Stevens to resist.
Boston introduced its 17th coach at a news conference on Friday at the team’s practice facility, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Stevens was his first choice to replace Doc Rivers. Boston received a first-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Clippers for the rights to Rivers last week, and then Ainge called Stevens.
“First of all, the Boston Celtics, like, wow — that is an incredible feeling,” Stevens said about last week’s phone call from Ainge. “It’s an incredible honor and it’s certainly flattering.”
Stevens received a six-year deal worth a reported $22 million and became the youngest head coach in the NBA.
“My first phone call was to Brad Stevens. Brad was my first choice,” Ainge said. “I have watched and admired his poise, his intelligence, his teams - their effort, their execution under pressure and I’ve always looked at him the last few years as a guy who was a great candidate to be a head coach - never really thinking that it was going to be this soon in Celtic history but he’s a guy that I have targeted for a long time as a potential great coach.”
Under a veil of secrecy, and a Celtics’ contingent visited Stevens’ home Wednesday and finalized the contract, with the coach’s wife/agent, Tracy.
“I’m the only coach in the country that pays 100 percent of his salary to his agent,” said Stevens, who left a deal with Butler set to run through 2022 for this “awesome opportunity.”
“I am absolutely humbled to be sitting in this room and looking around at the (17 championship) banners that hang,” he said. “I’m in awe of the Boston Celtics and the Boston Celtics organization and what has been accomplished by the players.”
Butler made it to the NCAA championship game twice with Stevens leading the way. Becoming a mid-major powerhouse helped Butler land a lucrative spot in the new Big East basketball conference.