BOSTON — Brad Stevens has a big challenge moving to the NBA as coach of the Boston Celtics. Massachusetts college coaches, though, are optimistic he can make the jump from Butler.
And he might even start a trend, one of those coaches says.
“I think he’ll do well and it probably will open some doors,” Holy Cross coach Milan Brown said Thursday. “It’ll make some general managers and presidents go, ‘Who’s the next Brad?'”
Brown was one of seven Division I coaches at an event Thursday promoting a tripleheader involving six of those teams on Nov. 10 at TD Garden in Boston. Stevens, hired in early July after Doc Rivers left to become coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, also attended.
One early challenge will be finding a point guard to start the season while Rajon Rondo recovers from knee surgery.
Rondo “is progressing well,” Stevens said. “He’s been great at what he can do. He’s not been cleared to do everything. It looks like that’ll be (some time) before he is. Does it look like he’ll be there at the start of the season? No.
“But he is in the gym.”
Stevens, 36, downplayed his transition to the NBA and what it could mean for college coaches seeking to move to the pros.
“To me, coaching’s coaching,” he said. “I think that, at the end of the day, it’s about going into a situation and working with the right people and trying to figure out ways to be successful. I’m certainly not going to put any pressure on myself to be (a pioneer).”
Butler made it to the NCAA championship game twice under Stevens, who led them to a 116-49 record in six seasons. The Celtics signed him to a six-year deal worth a reported $22 million that made him the youngest coach in the NBA.
Other college coaches at Thursday’s event were confident he could make the transition, especially with a young rebuilding team that traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets in the offseason.
“There certainly will be a lot of eyes and attention focused on him and his success. The college game is excited for him, proud of him and know that he’s going to do an outstanding job,” Harvard’s Tommy Amaker said. “There are very few college guys that are going to go take over the Miami Heat, when he has the opportunity to go win an NBA championship.
“Obviously, Brad is in a situation here where it appears to be a rebuilding job.”
So expectations are low, giving Stevens’ players time to adapt to his system and personality without pressure of instant success.
“I’m interested, like everyone else, in that I’m wondering if it can work at that level,” Boston College coach Steve Donahue said, “because, if it does, it reinforces everything you think is good about basketball, building a team and doing it a certain way. Brad does that. I think we would all say that he’s got everybody rooting for him.”
Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg said coaching the Celtics “is a challenge” for Stevens. “But I do believe that college coaches, at least the good ones that respect what he’s done, would be happy to see him do well.”