Brad Stevens is the youngest coach to take his team to two Final Fours.
Quite possibly the brightest coach in basketball, Stevens is a proven winner. He received his first head coaching job at 30, when he took over at Butler University. In his first season, he guided the Bulldogs to a 30-4 record while becoming the third-youngest coach in Division I history to win 30 games in a season.
Stevens spent six seasons at Butler, winning three Horizon League titles and twice being named the conference’s Coach of the Year.
In 2010, he set an NCAA record for most wins in a coach’s first three years — exceeding the previous mark by eight — then led Butler to the first Final Four in school history. At 33, Stevens became the second-youngest coach to make an NCAA championship game. The following year, he became the youngest coach to make two Final Fours.
Bradley Kent Stevens was born October 22, 1976. At three, he moved with his parents from Greenville, South Carolina, to Zionsville, Indiana. The only child of an orthopedic surgeon father and mother who was a college professor, Stevens was a basketball junkie from birth. At five, he would watch taped basketball games before going to afternoon kindergarten.
Mark Stevens had played football as an undergrad at Indiana University and would often make the drive to nearby Bloomington with his son to watch IU basketball games. For his eighth birthday, Stevens received a new basketball hoop.
Stevens attended Zionsville High School, a public co-ed facility located a half-hour northwest of Indianapolis. A tireless worker, he would get up early to practice shooting before school his freshman year. The hard work paid off, as Stevens made varsity as a frosh.
A prolific scorer, he was named All-Conference as a sophomore, junior and senior. In summers, Stevens played on AAU teams, and was a multi-sport athlete, earning three varsity letters in track as well as one in baseball. He also excelled in the classroom, graduating seventh in a class of 165, and earned the Straight A Gold Medal Award all four years at ZHS.
As a senior, Stevens was named Academic All-State First Team, and left Zionsville as the Eagles’ all-time leader in points, assists, steals and three-point field goals.
Considered too slow by many college scouts, Stevens only received one Division I offer – from Mercer, whose coach, Bill Hodges, was a Zionsville alum who had ridden Larry Bird to the 1979 NCAA title game while coaching at Indiana State. Stevens enrolled at DePauw University, a 2,300-student liberal arts college an hour southwest of Zionsville, in Greencastle.
A grinder who never won a starting position, he played in all 101 games during his career. Stevens earned four letters at DePauw, and was named captain as a senior.
Coach Bill Fenlon called Stevens “one of the most selfless, team-oriented players I’ve ever been around.” After graduating with an Economics degree in 1999, Stevens accepted a position as a marketing associate with Eli Lilly and Company, a global pharmaceutical company based in Indianapolis.
While coaching summer basketball camps at Butler, Stevens realized how much he missed the game. In the summer of 2000, he quit his lucrative job at Lilly to join Butler as a volunteer.
Stevens planned to live in a friend’s basement and take a job at Applebee’s when a low-level paid position became available at Butler. Earning $ 18,000 a year, he spent 14 hours a day studying footage of defensive tendencies.
In 2001, new Butler head coach Todd Lickliter promoted Stevens to a full-time assistant, where he was involved in skills instruction, game preparation and recruiting. When Lickliter left to take the Iowa job in April 2007, Stevens was promoted to head coach.
Prior to 2007, Butler University had been to the NCAA tournament seven times, only twice advancing past the second round. In his first season at the helm at Butler, Stevens guided the Bulldogs to 30 wins, a Horizon League title, and a berth in the NCAA tournament. By his third season, he had Butler in the national championship for the first time in school history.
That season, Butler won its fourth straight Horizon League championship and was seeded fifth in the NCAA tournament. After knocking off top-seeded Syracuse, then Kansas State and Michigan State, the Bulldogs faced Duke in the final.
Playing before more than 70,000 in Lucas Oil Stadium, only a few miles from Butler’s campus in downtown Indianapolis, the Bulldogs had a chance to beat the number-one ranked Blue Devils at the buzzer when Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave bounced off the rim.
How could Brad Stevens possibly top taking a fifth seed from a mid-major conference to the brink of a national championship against one of the top programs in college basketball? By doing it all over again.
In 2011, Butler did not win the conference title and finished the season ranked outside the top 20. The Bulldogs entered the NCAA tourney as an eighth seed, then quickly dismissed top-seeded Pitt, followed by Wisconsin, Florida and VCU to earn a return trip to the title game.
Butler was the first team to reach consecutive Final Fours without being a one or a two seed either year. They were the first non-BCS school to reach the title game in back-to-back seasons since the Cincinnati Bearcats of the early 1960s.
In the 2011 NCAA championship game, Butler was Cinderella once again, shooting under 20 percent from the floor while losing to Connecticut, 53-41. The 2010-11 campaign was one of Stevens’ best coaching efforts, and resulted in the young coach earning the Claire Bee Coach-of-the-Year Award.
In six seasons at Butler, Stevens went 166-49 [.772], with two 30-win seasons. He guided the Bulldogs to three conference titles, five NCAA tournament bids, and his teams never won fewer than 22 games in a season.
In July 2013, the Boston Celtics signed the 36-year-old Stevens to a six-year, $ 22 million contract to coach their moribund franchise. It was the first time Boston had hired a college coach since Rick Pitino in 1997.
Stevens was not even born when John Havlicek led the Celtics to two NBA titles in the 1970s. Preaching a “team first” philosophy, he has risen from a college assistant making $ 18,000 a year to one of the best coaches in the NBA.
Over the course of four years, Stevens has helped transform the Celtics from a lottery team to a title contender. The turnaround has been stunning.
Stevens went 25-57 in his first year in Beantown, a winning percentage of .305. Since then, Boston has improved dramatically since, posting winning percentages of .488, .585 and .655 the following three seasons.
After leading the Celts to two straight playoff appearances, Stevens received a contract extension. In June 2016, following months of speculation that Stevens would return to the college game, Boston inked the 39-year-old to a contract extension, prompting Celtics GM Danny Ainge to say, “We don’t have to answer any more questions about Indiana or Butler, or Duke, or North Carolina.”
After securing the best record in the Eastern Conference at the midpoint of the 2017 season, Brad Stevens was named coach of the East team at the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. Mr. Stevens then led the Boston Celtics to the Atlantic Division title in 2016-17, posting a laudable record of 53-29.
This evening, the Celtics host the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden in Boston. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 pm ET.