By Jim Weber
I know I’m in the minority here, but I think Butler’s Brad Stevens taking the Boston Celtics coaching job is something he will really regret.
Let me start by admitting there are several positives to making this move. First, it’s a win-win in this sense: If Stevens helps turn around the Celtics, he will be a God in Boston. Even if he doesn’t, Stevens will be able to pick whatever college job he wants upon returning to the NCAA. The money in the NBA will be great. And Stevens will certainly enhance his coaching skills by competing at the highest level of the sport.
But Stevens has proven he cares much more about his personal happiness than any big paycheck or jumping up the career ladder. And for these five reasons, I don’t foresee him being happier as the Celtics’ head coach than he would have been at Butler:
#1: Coaching Purgatory
The Celtics won’t just be bad next year, they should be awful. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are already gone, and I imagine Rajon Rondo is going to use all the leverage he has to get out of playing for a franchise that, aside from Jeff Green, will look like a D-League team next season. As a Cleveland Cavaliers fan all my life, I don’t think Stevens understands how brutal 55-loss NBA seasons can be with no one in the stands and players going through the motions by January.
Expect to see this face a lot in Boston this season:
Celtics fans are already talking about getting Andrew Wiggins in next year’s NBA draft and him immediately taking them back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Question: How’d it work out for Boston in 1997 when they tanked to get Tim Duncan? Drafting Wiggins isn’t a plan, it’s a prayer. And if the Celtics don’t get him, they’ll need at least four to five years to rebuild through the draft to make the playoffs again like the Cavaliers are doing now.
#2: Job Insecurity
I’m sure Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge hired Stevens with the intent of keeping him around for the length of the rebuilding process. That would only be fair. Well, coaching in the NBA is the farthest thing from fair. George Karl was just fired by the Denver Nuggets after being named Coach of the Year. Byron Scott was let go by the Cavaliers after just three years despite taking over a nightmarish roster right after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in 2010. Former St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap got all of one season in Charlotte before recently being axed despite improving the team.
If the Celtics lose around 55 games for three seasons, which everyone should expect, Ainge’s hand might be forced to fire Stevens or Ainge himself might be shown the door as well. If Stevens knew he would lose 55 games each over the next three seasons and then be let go – which is a very real possibility – do you think he would still have accepted this job? I sure hope not.
#3: Bad GM
I don’t care how good of a coach Stevens is in the NBA, the Celtics are going to have a hard time rebuilding their roster as long as Danny Ainge is the team’s general manager. Aside from drafting Rajon Rondo and swindling his old Celtics teammate Kevin McHale into a trade that shipped Garnett to Boston and formed the Big Three, Ainge’s time in Boston has been known for bad decisions like acquiring Sebastian Telfair and Gerald Green and trading away Antoine Walker.
With the Celtics essentially receiving nothing in return for trading away Garnett and Pierce, don’t be surprised if Ainge isn’t around to see the Celtics’ rebuilding project through. And if a new general manager rolls into town, all bets are off when it comes to Stevens’ future.
#4: Better NBA Jobs
If Stevens really wanted a job in the league, why would he take a gig with a roster that is being blown to bits? Twelve of the league’s 30 coaching jobs were up for grabs this offseason, including a bunch of playoff teams like the Western Conference finalist Memphis Grizzlies. Yes, the Celtics’ are one of the NBA’s best and most historical franchises. But that won’t mean anything when the ball is tipped to start the 2013-14 season.
#5: Can Already Pick College Job of Choosing
I’m hearing a lot of people say, “Stevens will be able to pick whatever college job he wants when he returns to college.” Guess what: Stevens already can pick any open college job he wants. He’s turned down multiple high-profile jobs in the last couple years, including the UCLA job this offseason. So going to the NBA to raise his profile for his speculated dream jobs of Indiana or Duke doesn’t make sense.
I also hear a lot of people say, “It was smart to jump ship since Butler is moving to the Big East.” While the conference will be tougher than the Atlantic 10, I don’t think a conference whose only current top 25 programs are Georgetown, Marquette and Creighton (the others in the new-look Big East are DePaul, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova and Xavier) scares a coach who led Butler to back-to-back NCAA title games. And if it did, he should have taken the UCLA job, where I think there’s absolutely no way he would have failed.
Like I said, even if he gets fired by the Celtics, I’m sure Stevens will land on his feet at a great college job just like Rick Pitino did after his time in Beantown. But Pitino also said he regretted his decision to leave Kentucky for the NBA and has since compared it to leaving Camelot. Or ask Lon Kruger, Mike Montgomery, John Calipari and Leonard Hamilton how they enjoyed their destined-to-fail tenures with the Hawks, Warriors, Nets and Wizards, respectively.
Stevens has just traded in being a hero in the state of Indiana, living in his home state, consistently winning 20 games a season and making a deep run in the NCAA tournament in exchange for getting beaten to a pulp in the NBA.
For a man who’s stayed at Butler all these years because it made him happiest, this sure appears like a decision Brad Stevens will ultimately regret.