The Celtics hired former Butler coach Brad Stevens to be their head coach Wednesday, eschewing an experienced NBA hire for one without professional experience but with NCAA success and tremendous promise. The Stevens hire was shocking, the stealth of the move particularly surprising given the public nature of the Doc Rivers negotiations.
Celtics fans haven’t had much time to dissect Stevens. Here are five things we know about his hiring:
— He’s a whiz kid
You’ll see this number thrown around a lot in the coming days, so let’s get it out of the way. In six seasons at Butler (located in Indianapolis), Stevens was 166-49, the most wins for any Division I coach in the first six years of his career. Stevens’s teams never struggled when he was a head coach, which is why UCLA came calling this offseason.
During Stevens’s tenure, Butler started in the Horizon League, moving to the Atlantic 10 in 2012-2013. That means many of those wins were against the likes of Cleveland State, Detroit, and Green Bay Phoenix. Butler made it to the final game of the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2011 but did not win a national championship.
— He’s unproven
Despite his impressive college resume, Stevens could not be more unproven at the NBA level. He’s never coached there. To put that into perspective, Stevens is the first Celtics coach hired from college with no NBA experience since Doggie Julian was hired from Holy Cross in 1948. Julian went 47-81. The Celtics are starting with a clean slate.
— He’s already popular
In an unscientific poll of Boston.com readers, more than 80 percent had voted in support of the Stevens hire late Wednesday night. The natural tendency for fans in general is to support the unknown. Think of Stevens as a Red Sox prospect. Fans are more likely to be excited about Jackie Bradley Jr., whom they’ve heard could turn into a stud, than Shane Victorino, who is a proven commodity with less upside. This Celtics writer gets more questions about Fab Melo than almost any other player, but Shavlik Randolph is the more effective NBA center now and is likely to be for the foreseeable future.
— He’s a numbers guy
Search “Brad Stevens metrics” and you’ll turn up a slew of articles about the coach’s use of advanced statistics. At Butler Stevens hired Drew Cannon, formerly of Basketball Prospectus, to help his team better utilize advanced stats. Lineup analysis is one of Cannon’s strengths, according to a story by SI’s Pete Thamel.
Another thing Stevens is very good at is in-game management. My friend Nicole Auerbach, who covers college basketball for USA Today, says Stevens is one of the best in the game at this. Watch the play-calling below as Butler upset Indiana this past season despite Butler’s top players fouling out late in regulation. Rivers was known to draw up a few late-game plays himself, so this seems like a good fit.
— He’s not a band aid
The Herald’s Steve Bulpett is reporting that Stevens’s deal is for six years. That’s one more year than Doc got, which may or may not be significant. What it does mean, is that Stevens is not a temporary patch. He didn’t get a two-or-three-year deal to correspond roughly with the period the Celtics are expected to be in transition. The length of the contract makes sense, because there had to be an incentive for Stevens to leave Butler. It makes sense because Stevens may lack experience, but he’s got more promise than just about any young coach out there. The Celtics may view Stevens as the choice for now, but they may also keep him around a few years down the road.