INDIANAPOLIS – Monday was the highest of highs on the campus of Butler University. The Bulldogs celebrated their official first day as a member of the Big East Conference. That excitement lasted approximately 48 hours before being extinguished with a dousing of shock.
Brad Stevens, the youthful men's basketball coach that led Butler to unprecedented and quite frankly, unfathomable heights, is leaving the university for the position of head coach of the Boston Celtics.
“Our family is thrilled for the opportunity given to us by the leadership of the Boston Celtics,” Stevens said in a release. “But it is emotional to leave a place that we have called home for the past 13 years.”
Stevens took over the Bulldog program six springs ago and much like Wednesday's bombshell of a story, no one could have possibly foreseen what lay ahead.
When Stevens took over for Todd Lickliter, the Bulldogs were coming off of their second Sweet 16 appearance in five seasons. That was about as revered of an accomplishment as Butler fans could have dreamed of.
Stevens gave success a new definition.
He coached Butler to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in his first two seasons, and then pulled off stunning trips to consecutive National Championship games in 2010 and 2011, where the Bulldogs fell to Duke (61-59) and UConn (53-41).
Not only did Stevens prove tremendous on the basketball court, but as Butler University had its image splashed across the national consciousness, Stevens became the face of Butler and America loved what it saw.
The Bulldog student-athletes were well-spoken, talented and strong academically; in essence, the program and its leader seemed perfect.
“In keeping with The Butler Way, Brad has given his talent to our University with exceptional generosity, integrity, and humility,” President James M. Danko said. “His record as the winningest coach in NCAA history during his first six years as head coach, his leadership of Butler's dual Final FourŪ runs, and his work ethic have made him a beloved member of our community.”
Stevens won 77.2 percent of his games (166-49) over six seasons, including four Horizon League championships and five trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Each spring, the rumors would circulate as he was pursued by the best college jobs in the country. However, history showed that no collegiate position would weigh with his heart as much as Butler did, where he started his career in 2000.
“We truly love Butler University and Indianapolis,” Stevens said. “(We) are very thankful to have had the opportunity to celebrate so many wonderful things together. What makes Butler truly unique is the people that we have been so blessed to work with. When it comes time for our kids to look at schools, we will start with Butler University.”
Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier said that a national search for Stevens' replacement is already under way.
“Brad is leaving a great legacy and an excellent foundation for us to build on,” Collier said. “Our athletics program has an extremely bright future, and we are confident that Butler's first year in the Big East will be an outstanding one.”
The university has called a news conference for tonight at 9:30 p.m.