Has anybody ever seen Brad Stevens and Pete Buttigieg in the same room?
From social media to “Meet the Press,” the Celtics coach’s resemblance to Buttigieg has become a running joke — especially as the South Bend, Indiana mayor’s 2020 presidential campaign caught fire this spring.
“I get this a lot, but if you ever saw me attempt to play basketball, the comparisons would end,” Buttigieg joked on Twitter back in 2017.
But that’s hardly the truth; it turns out Stevens and Buttigieg have biographies that share parallels as uncannily similar as their appearances — as well as mutual admiration.
They both grew up in Indiana, raised by college professors. They both initially worked in corporate fields, before realizing they wanted a different career. And they both found success in the respective fields at a relatively young age. Stevens, now 42, became Butler University’s basketball coach at the age of 30, before the Celtics hired him at the age of 36. Buttigieg, now 37, was first elected mayor when he was 28.
They’re also both Democrats, according to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon, who recently interviewed both Stevens and Buttigieg. According to Stevens, he first learned about Buttigieg from his wife, Tracy.
“We’ve both grown to become huge fans of his,” he told Vardon.
“I just think the biggest thing that stands out about Pete is he is so measured,” Stevens said. “He is so thoughtful, and he is so smart, that it really comes out as a really viable candidate.”
The Celtics coach’s fandom for Buttigieg isn’t particularly new. During a radio interview back in March, Stevens was asked about his apparent doppelgänger, who had just begun his ascent to the national stage.
“I’ve actually followed him pretty close and — I’ll be real candid — I love a lot of his platform,” Stevens said. “I’m a big fan of his. I haven’t endorsed anyone yet, because I don’t really get into the political stuff too much, but he’s a hard one for me to root against.”
His comments came less than a week before Buttigieg made his first campaign trip to Boston, but Stevens and the Celtics were out of town for a game in Orlando by the time he actually arrived. The Zionsville, Indiana native joked at the time that if Buttigieg eventually was elected president, maybe his face was similar enough that he could portray the wunderkind politician on “Saturday Night Live.”
The kind words even landed Stevens a dinner invitation from Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten (though there’s no evidence it has yet happened).
When are you coming for dinner? https://t.co/ubaEgkymQt
— Chasten Buttigieg (@Chas10Buttigieg) March 27, 2019
Buttigieg told Vardon that he found it “flattering” that people saw a resemblance. And Stevens does agree that the comparisons stop at a certain point.
“I mean it’s really not a comparison. When you go through all that he’s accomplished and all that he’s been through and his military service and being a Rhodes Scholar and being a mayor of a city in Indiana at the age he was, he is way … I think we overrate basketball coaches,” Stevens said. “I think he’s on a different planet.”
In turn, Buttigieg said Stevens is “just unflappable” in the same way he remembered Phil Jackson’s “poker-faced” coaching of the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s.
“Once in awhile you’ll see something that will get a rise out of him,” Buttigieg said of Stevens. “But there’s a sense of calm, there’s a sense of a lot of preparation, and he just has a presence that I imagine is very effective for keeping his players focused on the goal.”
Vardon, a political reporter-turned-sports writer, published his article Wednesday. In it, Stevens and Buttigieg reflected extensively on their similar backgrounds, potential reasons for their respective “measured” demeanors, and the dynamics of achieving varying degrees of fame at a young age.
According to The Athletic, the two interviews were conducted separately over the course of three weeks this past spring. So we still haven’t seen Stevens and Buttigieg in the same place.