Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Friday he’s not considering the head-coaching vacancy at Indiana University, issuing his strongest denial yet.
“I said it the other day: I’m not (considering it),” Stevens said. “And I tried to say it as clearly as I could and also make sure that people understand that that place to me is special. Because I don’t want to make it sound like it’s not. But, like I said the other day, I’m so grateful to this organization, and to the people here, and for all that they’ve done for us. I’ve got unbelievable leadership in Danny (Ainge) and Wyc (Grousbeck) and Pags (Steve Pagliuca), and what they’ve done for us, the way we’ve been supported … we’re going through a tough season, and I think that it’s not my job to not go through it. It’s not my job to not make sure I’m doing everything I can to help find a better version of ourselves this year. “
The Celtics are 20-21 on the season, currently sitting with the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Stevens, an Indiana native who grew up an hour from Bloomington and spent 12 seasons as an assistant and head coach at Butler, moved to Boston in 2013, when the Celtics needed a replacement for Doc Rivers.
“I love coming to work every day. I love this area,” Stevens continued. “People have been great to us. My family is so happy. And, at the same time, home is home. And that’s why I wanted to make sure everybody understood that means a lot. But no. Just like I said on Tuesday, I’m not. So, I don’t know if I will have to answer that again on Monday, but I hope that people understand that. And people can hopefully appreciate that it still means a lot to me and I hope they hire whoever they hire and they are there for 20 years and kids feel like I did. But I’m not a kid anymore. I’m a 44-year-old Ma–hole. I swerve around others when I’m driving, I eat Dunkin Donuts and I root for the Patriots. I’m, unfortunately, skewed in a lot of ways, I guess.”
Indiana fired Archie Miller on Monday after four seasons in Bloomington. The Hoosiers failed to reach the NCAA tournament during his time at the helm and lost six straight games to end this season, finishing 12-15 overall and 7-12 in Big Ten play.
Due to his ties to the state, Stevens immediately emerged as the dream candidate for the Indiana fanbase. When asked earlier this week about it, he said that he was “extremely grateful” to be the coach of the Celtics, but also that “it means a lot” to see the support for him to return to his home state and take over the Hoosiers’ program.
That did nothing to quell the rumors the last few days, with buzz growing about him weighing the option to leave the NBA and return to college. Friday’s statements should finally put an end to the speculation.
Other names linked in recent days to the Indiana vacancy include former Michigan coach John Beilein, Texas Tech’s Chris Beard, Baylor’s Scott Drew and Arkansas’ Eric Musselman. Nevada coach and Indiana legend Steve Alford is not under consideration, sources told ESPN, while Alabama’s Nate Oats has a buyout north of $12 million, taking him off the list.
Beard, Drew and Musselman are all coaching in the NCAA tournament this weekend, and sources have told ESPN there has been limited contact, at most, with any of the three thus far.
Stevens quietly signed a contract extension — his second since joining the Celtics after his stellar run at Butler in 2013 — on an off-day in mid-August during the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, Florida, just before the start of the playoffs. The next day, Stevens talked about how important it was for he and his wife, Tracy, to have stability for their family in a profession — coaching — that typically is anything but stable.
“I’d say it’s obviously an honor and a privilege to coach the Celtics, and we recognize that,” Stevens said. “We’ve had a really enjoyable experience and there have been so many good days. I felt like we’ve gotten better, I felt like we’ve put ourselves in position to compete and hopefully we’ll continue to do so.
“One of the things that was really important to Tracy and I all the way through was that we were gonna do this coaching thing, try our best to be as stable as possible without moving too much. And we’ve been, like, incredibly blessed when you consider 13 years at Butler and now finishing the seventh year with the Celtics and moving on. I think in coaching, you just expect it to end at some point by being let go or by being fired. It’s just kind of the nature of the business, so I’ve never really focused on that. I’m just trying to focus on doing the job as well as I can.”
Since arriving in Boston, Stevens has established himself as one of the league’s elite coaches, going 338-267 in his seven-plus seasons on the sideline for the Celtics, including reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four seasons.
Over that span, only the Golden State Warriors have won more playoff games than the Celtics have. Stevens is the fifth-longest tenured NBA coach with their current team, behind Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Rick Carlisle and Terry Stotts.