They stood on opposite sidelines Friday night at TD Garden. Mike Brown coached the Cavaliers, Brad Stevens the Celtics.
But they had an unusual – and, to be fair, rather uncomfortable – connection: Brown’s son, Elijah.
In April, Elijah Brown, a shooting guard out of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., signed a national letter-of-intent to play at Butler for Stevens, then the head coach of the Bulldogs.
Before the ink was dry, though, Elijah’s father called Stevens just to feel out the coach, who had been rumored to be leaving.
“I tried to be as candid as I possibly could, as I was with most everybody,” Stevens said. “Certainly you didn’t know if you’d ever leave, but I said it would have to be an extremely unique situation.”
Sure enough, after Doc Rivers left his post as the Celtics head coach, Stevens left Butler to replace Rivers in Boston.
“When I called [Mike] and told him that, he was great to me,” Stevens said.
Elijah has fared well at Butler, where he’s averaging 8.3 points in his freshman season and scored 15 in a 69-67 loss to No. 5 Oklahoma State Friday.
“I’ve said this: He’s in the best program in the country,” Stevens said.
Mike Brown acknowledged that it was a tough situation, but he added that there was a strange side story involved.
When Elijah committed to play at Butler, Mike was out of a job, having been fired as the Lakers head coach. Soon enough, the coaching positions at nearby USC and UCLA became available. Mike immediately thought Stevens would take the UCLA job.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, Brad is going to leave, He’s going to leave,’ ” Mike said. “And the next thing I know, I get a call from Brad and he says, ‘Am I losing a recruit?’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He goes, ‘Is his dad going to UCLA and you’re taking him with you?’
“I’m like, ‘No, I thought you were going to UCLA!’
“He was like, ‘No, I thought you were going to UCLA!’ ”
Neither one was right. UCLA tried to woo Stevens, but he turned them down. Meanwhile, Mike would later become the Cavaliers coach.
The process was one that forced Mike to be in the position of both a coach and a parent.
“It was tough, and I had to wear both hats to help my son through it,” Mike said. “But again, it helps because we’re in the business. We’re in the profession. Elijah has been in it his whole life. He doesn’t know anything else different – the same with my wife.”
Mike said he has no hard feelings toward Stevens for leaving Butler.
“Brad is such a class guy, and when he did leave, I don’t know if you can handle it any better,” Mike said. “Elijah has been through a lot of that type of stuff but Elijah told me – and he’s going to get mad because I said it this way, but he’s so cute – he called me and said, ‘Dad, when he told me…my knees buckled and I thought I was going to faint…but Dad, I locked my knees and I stood strong.’
“I was like, ‘Good job, buddy.’ ”
There was even more to the story, though.
“I called Danny Ainge and Danny told me, ‘Hey, I’m sorry for screwing with you or messing with you, and because of that, we’ll take [Elijah] in the second round when he comes out,’ ” said Mike, laughing. “I also called Doc too, and I said, ‘Doc, you caused this whole thing because you left.’
‘Doc said, ‘Well, if Boston doesn’t take him, we’ll take him here in LA.’
“So, I’ve got him covered.”