The news of Brad Stevens' departure from Butler to the Boston Celtics was shocking. I believed he was a college lifer, but that was not the case.
The coaching transition from college to the pros is not easy. Greats such as Rick Pitino, John Calipari and Jerry Tarkanian have lacked great success at that level. I remember when I went from the University of Detroit to the Pistons; I lost more games in a week than I did in one season.
It is a big-time adjustment, starting with practice time. I learned I could not run practice in the NBA with the same intensity displayed in college. I held practices that ran 2 to 2½ hours in college, and I remember Hall of Famer Bob Lanier telling me that would not work in the pros because of the travel and number of games each week. College coaches are acclimated to a different time schedule.
Stevens commands respect, and he will get it in Boston. All the same, he might want someone with NBA experience on the bench with him to help him make the transition from college to the pros.
What Stevens did at Butler was absolutely amazing, unique and special. To take a mid-major team to consecutive national championship games is an incredible feat. Imagine if Gordon Hayward's shot had gone in at the buzzer against Duke in the 2010 national championship game. Indianapolis would have seen bedlam break out.
Everyone in the basketball world knew Stevens was the total package -- good with players, good with the media. And any guy who accomplished that success at Butler could be a winner at the next level. But he will have to preach patience with the Celtics, as the franchise is rebuilding. Will he have enough patience to handle the losing that will come early in his pro career? Patience is going to be the key to dealing with the pressure he will face.
I don't blame him for leaving Butler because he is going to a great organization. But when you look at the NBA, it is talent that is the key. In the last three or four minutes, the stars take over. It is LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and if you don't have that superstar to shine, it is tougher to get to the winner's circle. It can be close, and then it is LeBron time or Durant time.
Will Stevens have the personnel to succeed right away? He might lose more games in his first season than he did in six years leading the Bulldogs.
People are impatient at the pro level. The letters on the front say N-B-A, not C-Y-O, and it is all about today. People can talk all they want about a rebuilding job, but if you get pounded on the sideline day after day, it becomes frustrating. Right now, I think he is behind in terms of talent level. If the Celtics win 40 games, they'll be lucky. We will see how he handles that situation.
Stevens can coach, and with the right people, he will win his share of games. He has a great basketball IQ, has a terrific feel for the flow of a game, is an excellent communicator, and has a great understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of his players. If anyone can pull this off and build a winner in Boston, it is Stevens.
His personality and knowledge of the game were a perfect fit on the collegiate level. I wish him the best. It is a loss for college hoops and a big positive for the NBA.