ORLANDO, Fla. — Andrew Smith hails from the same town as Brad Stevens: Zionsville, Indiana. Smith pursued Butler before they were interested in him, and the selling point, the center said, was their coach, Stevens, who is now the head coach of the Boston Celtics.
It’s a whole different level of basketball, but Smith, who is a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s summer league team here, is confident that Stevens will do just fine.
“He’ll be great,” Smith said. “That’s one of his best things: Dealing with different situations. It might take him a little bit of time to get adjusted, college is a lot different than the NBA, but with a talent like him, it’s only a matter of time before he’s able to figure it out. I think he’ll be pretty good in a few years.”
Leaving Butler wasn’t easy for Stevens to do, as he and others have stated.
“I’ve talked to all the guys on the team,” Smith said, “They said that locker room meeting was pretty emotional, and they were on break, so some of the players weren’t even in town, were not able to hear about it until the media.
“A situation like that is tough, but we’re all excited for him. We know this is a pretty unique opportunity and he’d be pretty foolish to pass it up.”
Smith also thought the NBA would be Stevens’ next step, even if it seemed like Stevens would never leave Butler, where he signed a 12-year contract extension in 2010.
“I didn’t think he would ever leave Butler for another school,” Smith said. “He was pretty committed to us, and yeah, I know he’s had a couple of opportunities to go to some pretty big schools, and turned them down. So I thought the NBA would be the only thing he would move on for.”
Stevens’ attention to detail is one trait that many cite as perhaps his strongest, and Smith noted that Stevens hired a statistical guru named Drew Cannon as evidence of that.
Cannon is considered to be the first pure statistics-based hire on a college basketball staff.
“And I think they went over like a 10-hour report before and after every single game,” Smith said. “That alone proves it, and that’s just part of what he does. And his ability to congest all that and give it to us in a way that’s understandable, and just give us 3 or 4 key things that we can focus on each game, and not just be overwhelmed. His ability to do that, is very impressive.”