The harsh reality is that Brad Stevens will likely leave the Boston Celtics at some point. Believe it or not, he’ll be leaving because he’s almost too good for his current job.
Just look at the head coaches that make the most money across the league. Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, Stan Van Gundy are all at the top of that list and there’s one thing they each have in common; all four of them are also the President of Basketball Operations – Danny Ainge’s current position with the Celtics – for their respective teams.
There’s pretty much two reasons why Stevens left Butler in the first place; money and a new challenge. He signed a massive 12-year extension with the school back in 2010 and turned down bigger offers from Oregon and Wake Forest to do so. Stevens coached the Bulldogs for three more seasons after that and turned down a massive offer from UCLA, telling Dan Patrick that he would never leave Butler.
Stevens never actually coached another game for Butler after telling Dan Patrick that he would never leave the school. That interview was on April 1, 2013 and Boston announced the hiring of Stevens on July 3rd of that same year. The money easily topped what Butler was paying him, but him leaving felt a bit different from turning down other college jobs because it was a new challenge.
If another team came forward and offered Stevens more than what the Celtics were paying him, his track record at Butler suggests that he’ll still turn it down as long as he remains comfortable and happy in Boston. Money alone probably won’t get him out of New England. But if that franchise starts to dangle the new challenge of being head coach and having roster control to go along with a big salary increase, then you might find yourself in a situation where Stevens is ready to move on.
Danny Ainge isn’t showing signs of slowing down, so the Celtics won’t have that position open up. Even if Ainge did surprisingly leave, Boston would have to give a serious look at promoting his right hand man Mike Zarren instead of Stevens. It almost seems unbelievable at times that no team has hired him away from Boston with guys like Daryl Morey and Sam Hinkie claiming that Zarren would make one of the best general managers in the NBA if given a shot.
With no shot at a promotion in sight, one team making a “super offer” to Stevens could catch his attention and start giving him thoughts about leaving. Just one team needs to give him the keys to everything and a boat load of cash, and he probably deserves to get that offer and take on that challenge after doing such a great job with the Celtics.
The possibility of him leaving might be tough to think about right now, but this is a guy who went on the record to say he wouldn’t leave Butler and he literally never coaching another game there again. So you really shouldn’t be leaving anything off the table.
The Brad Stevens love across the league has easily surpassed the love Doc Rivers was receiving in Boston. This is something that Ainge can use to his advantage if Stevens ever looks at him and says there’s a better offer for him out there.
He can’t just leave on his own for the foreseeable future. Stevens is signed through 2021 so if that deserving offer comes sooner, Ainge can once again flip his head coach for a draft pick. Stevens might even be worth two picks at this point. If it’s a rebuilding team looking to poach Brad, he might even be valuable enough to walk away with their lottery pick in that upcoming draft.
Don’t be afraid of life after Stevens either, the guy hasn’t missed on a head coaching hire yet. Ainge was hired shortly after the 2002-03 season ended and head coach Jim O’Brien hated working with him, leading to his stunning resignation 46 games into their first season together. John Carroll took over as interim coach before Ainge hired Doc Rivers that offseason.
Rivers won 416 games – third in franchise history behind Red Auerbach and Tommy Heinsohn – while also topping his resume with a championship in 2008. It worked well from the start as Rivers won the Atlantic Division in his first year with the Celtics before holding strong while he watched Ainge completely gut the roster and go into rebuilding mode.
Clearly, Stevens hasn’t been too bad himself.