We’ve heard Brad Stevens’ side of how Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics pitched him on his current head coach job.
But why did the Celtics decide to pursue Stevens, then just a 36-year-old college coach at Butler University? After all, the inexperienced Stevens was quite a change from seasoned head coach Doc Rivers, who left Boston in 2013 after nine seasons.
That 180, according to Wyc Grousbeck, was no coincidence. During an interview with WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan” as part of the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, the Celtics co-owner explained what led him and Ainge to surprisingly target and hire Stevens in the summer of 2013.
“I had been thinking about this: We’ve had an old-school (coach) — fantastic coach, but very old school, with certain rules about, the starting five had to be the finishing five,” Grousbeck said, referring to Rivers. “It’s sort of like playing baseball. There are a lot of old rules that don’t necessarily make a lot of sense. We won a championship with Doc. We wouldn’t have won without Doc. We love Doc, and it was a great nine years.
“But he moved on, and I said, ‘I want a young gun. I don’t want an NBA retread. I don’t want anybody that’s been fired in the NBA. … We’re going to start fresh.”
If that indeed was Grousbeck’s strategy, it was a bold one; most NBA teams prefer hiring coaches with at least some experience in the league, preferably in a head coach role. But Grousbeck insists he wanted to shake things up a bit.
“I’m not going to have a retread. And Danny, I want somebody whose mind matches with yours, and you guys can be staying up late trying to upend the NBA and do creative things,” Grousbeck said.
According to Grousbeck, they agreed to search the college coaching ranks, after which Ainge recommended Stevens. The rest is history, as Boston hired the bright young Butler coach in a move that appeared to come completely out of left field. (The Boston Globe on the morning of Stevens’ hire listed 13 potential Celtics coaches, none of which were Stevens.)
Five years later, it looks like Grousbeck and the Celtics knew what they were doing.
Watch Grousbeck’s full interview above, and click here to learn more about The Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber’s continued efforts to strike out cancer.
Thumbnail photo via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images