To most Indiana fans, hell, probably most basketball fans in general, Brad Stevens’ life is the stuff dreams are made of. Not the “I want to be Michael Jordan” type of dream, but the one you have while daydreaming at your desk while procrastinating from the pivot table you have to write an analysis on before lunch. His journey from entry-level Eli Lilly employee to Boston Celtics head coach in just 13 years is already the business casual version of the Miracle On Ice, and his story has only just begun.
In a state that lives and dies with its basketball successes and failures, Brad Stevens’ rise into the basketball holy one, capable of healing all wounds and turning Gatorade into wine, is one that not even the most die-hard Indiana basketball purists could have scripted. His name has become cannon fodder across the state, and the most amazing part of it all is that every single ounce of praise that he gets these days is fully warranted.
After making a name for himself at Butler by carrying the program to never-before-seen heights, his departure from the collegiate game came at a very interesting time in IU’s recent history, as July 2013 was just months after Tom Crean’s demise was set in motion during the infamous Sweet 16 debacle against Syracuse. While people slowly but surely began to call for Crean’s head, Stevens rode a wave of great publicity and optimism into golden boy status due to his back-to-back national championship appearances in 2011-12, and ascended to the top job in all of the land as the head coach of the Boston Celtics. Over the past four years, a growing percentage of the Indiana fanbase has viewed Stevens’ return to the state of Indiana as the answer to Crean’s perceived mediocritry. As the Celtics progressed and grew into a contender due largely to the steady hand of their coach, the buzz for Stevens to IU grew louder, and with Crean now out the door, it has reached a fever pitch, complete with photoshops and music videos.
While The Boston Globe takes vague quotes from Stevens and spins them into definitive proclamations, no one truly knows what is going on inside of Brad Stevens’ head or what his long-term career plans are. While he will continue to say all the right things to the media, backroom discussions are and always have been a major theme in coaching searches. If Stevens even has the slightest bit of interest in coming home to take over the reigns of the Indiana program with absolute full control at his disposal, Fred Glass should be setting up camp on the Stevens family’s front lawn with a blank check in one hand and a boombox blasting Peter Gabriel ballads in the other.
Why he fits
- He may actually be a basketball savant. While you should really read this whole article from last April, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan outlines Stevens’ meteroic rise in the coaching ranks, with a specific focus on highlighting his extraordinary basketball tactician skills. Isaiah Thomas, the tiny point guard who bounced around the league before becoming a star for the Celtics, touts his coach’s “defensive instincts, meticulous preparation, ability to adapt, willingness to listen and learn, and demeanor” as reasons for why he thinks Stevens “has the potential to be one of the greatest coaches who ever lived.”
- He’s a perfect fit for the modern college game. A brilliant strategist and player development extraordinaire, no one doubts his capabilities on the court. Imagining Stevens in a potential return to the collegiate game, armed with proven success at both the college and NBA level, could give Indiana fans hot flashes. Top high school talent would be lining up to play for someone who knows what it takes to succeed at the NBA level on a first-hand level, but also a coach who can get the most out of each and every one of his players.
- For the first time since the early 1990’s, a IU men’s basketball coach would have the full backing of fans, players, and administration alike.
- His hiring will finally appease the Fire Tom Crean twitter accounts. With nothing left to do, they would actually have to root for the Hoosiers to win games for the first time in 4 years.
Why he’s not a fit
- He can’t win the big game. In back-to-back years, Stevens failed to put the cherry on top of storybook tournament runs, and Indiana must hold itself to a higher standard.
- Because when you put yourself in his shoes, what exactly is the appeal?
The bottom line
Hoosier fans better pray to whatever deity they believe in that Stevens and his family are homesick, or that he views his ultimate destiny is to coach his hometown former powerhouse back to prominence, because nothing else is getting him to abandon his current post. Outside of maybe Steve Kerr, Stevens is home to maybe the most attractive coaching situation in the entire league with a Celtics team on the rise loaded with young talent and future top draft picks in his back pocket. If you’re pinning your hopes that he wants to be with a historic franchise like Indiana, it might be best for you to avert your eyes from the 17 banners hanging in the rafters at Boston’s TD Garden.
But hey, his story has been stranger than fiction up to this point, so who’s really to say what Brad Stevens’ future holds outside of the man himself. Bloomington would undoubtedly embrace him with open arms and a hero’s welcome, but I wouldn’t hold my breath while waiting.