INDIANAPOLIS — Hours after Brad Stevens told athletic director Barry Collier he was leaving Butler for Boston, he sat down to explain the decision to his players.
Tears were shed and hearts were broken.
Yes, this is going to take some to get over.
On Wednesday, the 36-year-old Stevens stunned the city of Indianapolis by leaving the tiny school he led to back-to-back national runner-up finishes to take the Celtics job in the NBA.
The news hit hardest inside historic Hinkle Fieldhouse where, just two days earlier, players, coaches and administrators were celebrating their official entry into the re-formed Big East.
“When all the guys came in, we really didn’t know what the meeting was about,” Bulldogs forward Khyle Marshall explained in a hushed tone. “Me, personally, I cried a lot because we’ve been through so much together. Me, personally, I took it very hard, and so did a lot of other guys.”
For years, the departure of Stevens seemed preordained. Rumors swirled each offseason about some other, more prestigious, job that would woo him. Each time, including when the UCLA job came open this year, Stevens said no.
Collier said the Celtics never contacted him about talking to Stevens and that he didn’t realize anything was different until Stevens walked into his office Wednesday morning.
“Brad did not make his decision until he talked to me,” Collier said. “But he had given it great thought and he was really torn.”
The same man who left his job as a marketing analyst at Eli Lilly to take a volunteer coaching job on Thad Matta’s Butler staff in the summer of 2000, suddenly had an offer he couldn’t refuse. And it has forced the Bulldogs to quickly find a new coach.
The timing couldn’t be worse.
Butler’s six incoming freshmen have already begun summer school. Stevens’ longtime top assistant, Matthew Graves, accepted South Alabama’s head coaching job three months ago. Meanwhile, most of the big-name coaches have already landed jobs for next season.