Bradley Kent "Brad" Stevens (born October 22, 1976) is an American professional basketball head coach for the Boston Celtics of the NBA. He was previously the head coach at Butler University in Indianapolis. A former basketball player, he grew up in Zionsville, Indiana, where he starred on the Zionsville Community High School basketball team, setting four school records. After high school, he attended DePauw University, where he played basketball and earned a degree in economics. He made the all-conference team multiple times and was a three-time Academic All-America nominee.
Stevens joined the Butler basketball program as a volunteer prior to the 2000–01 season after quitting his job at Eli Lilly and Company. He was promoted to a full-time assistant coaching position for the 2001–02 season. On April 4, 2007, he became the head coach after Todd Lickliter left to coach the Iowa Hawkeyes. In his first year, Stevens led Butler to 30 wins, becoming the third-youngest head coach in NCAA Division I history to have a 30-win season.
In 2010, his third year as head coach, Stevens broke the NCAA record for most wins in a coach's first three years, exceeding the previous record by eight. In the postseason, Stevens coached Butler to the first Final Four in school history. At 33 years old, Stevens became the second-youngest head coach to make a NCAA National Championship game, losing 61–59 to Duke. Shortly after the season ended, he signed a contract extension with Butler through the 2011–12 season. With the 2010–11 team making the Final Four, Stevens became the youngest coach to go to two Final Fours. Stevens coached the Bulldogs in their second consecutive national championship game on April 4, 2011, where the team lost to the Huskies of the University of Connecticut.
Stevens is known for a calm, focused coaching style. He spends a lot of time analyzing opponents using statistical analysis, adding new wrinkles to his team's play each game. He puts a strong emphasis on defensive and team oriented basketball. Butler's success against teams with superior athletes has been attributed to Stevens' coaching style and calm demeanor. Stevens has twice been named the Horizon League Coach of the Year and won collegeinsider.com's Hugh Durham Award mid-season honors in January 2009. He has also been both a Hugh Durham Award and Jim Phelan Award finalist all three years of his career. Stevens has been called a coaching prodigy and compared to John Wooden. He is married with two young children. In July 2013, he signed a six-year, 22 million dollar contract to become the head coach of the Boston Celtics in the NBA. In April 2015, Stevens led the Celtics to the NBA Playoffs as the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference with a 40–42 record.
Bradley Kent Stevens grew up in Zionsville, Indiana, where he developed his love for basketball. Starting at age five, Stevens would watch taped basketball games "before he went to afternoon kindergarten". His father would often drive him to Bloomington, to watch Indiana Hoosiers games. "It's hard not to be [in love with basketball] when you're a kid growing up in Indiana", Stevens later said.
For his eighth birthday, Stevens received a new basketball hoop. "It’s so much fun to dream in your driveway," he later remarked. "That’s where my friends and I hung out. It was a lot of fun to grow up in that era." When a friend, Brandon Monk, had a basketball court installed in his back yard, Stevens "appeared instantaneously." He was so dedicated to the game that he would bring the unprepared ingredients for grilled cheese sandwiches over to Monk's house, so that he would not waste time waiting for the sandwiches to cook.
Monk's court soon became a gathering place, where Zionsville kids and kids from the surrounding areas would hold pickup games. These games helped develop Stevens' competitive streak. Besides playing basketball, the young Stevens also enjoyed solving puzzles, a skill he later applied to analyzing opposing teams to find their weaknesses.
Stevens attended Zionsville Community High School, where he became a star basketball player. He wore No. 31 in high school in honor of Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller. During his freshman year, he would get up early to practice shooting at a local gym before school. The hard work paid off as Stevens made the varsity team that same year. By the time his high school career was complete, Stevens had set school records for career scoring, assists, steals, and three-point field goals. As of 2010, he still holds the records for points (1508), assists (444), and steals (156), as well as the single-season points record (644 in 1995). Stevens was named to the all-conference team three times. In 1995, he was named the sectional MVP and was the leading scorer in state sectional play (32.3 ppg).
Stevens made the academic all-state first team and received the Straight A Gold Medal Award all four years. He was a member of the National Honor Society, graduating seventh in his class of 165. He earned three letters in basketball, three in track, and one in baseball during his days at Zionsville. During summers, he traveled the country playing AAU basketball.
Although Stevens had a strong passion for the game, he realized that his basketball skills were modest and not likely to get him very far. As such, he chose to attend academically oriented DePauw University for college. During his stay, he played in all 101 DePauw games, earning four varsity letters. He earned multiple all-conference and academic all-conference awards, and was a three-time Academic All-America nominee. He was a team captain his senior year, and averaged more than 8 points per game three of his four years. His career highs were 24 points and 8 rebounds in a game. After his senior year, Stevens received the Coaches’ Award. Coach Bill Fenlon later described Stevens as "one of the most selfless, team-oriented person [sic] I've ever been around."
While at DePauw, Stevens was a member of the Management Fellows Honors Program and the DePauw Community Services’ Sports Night executive board. He was also a brother of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. During summer vacations, Stevens spent time teaching at Butler basketball camps. He was named to the Dean's list and graduated in 1999 with a degree in economics.
In the summer of 2000, Stevens was offered the opportunity to volunteer in the Butler basketball office. He ran the idea of quitting his job at Eli Lilly by then-longtime girlfriend Tracy Wilhelmy. She thought about it for two hours before telling him to go for it. "Now, it looks like a great idea," Stevens later remarked. "At the time, I thought it was something I really wanted to try." Tracy went back to school to get a law degree that could support the couple if things did not work out for Brad. "We were 23 and realized this was our chance," Tracy later said. "Five years down the road, we were probably not going to be in a position to do that. The more success you had at Lilly, the harder it would be to leave."
Stevens planned to live in a friend's basement and took a job at Applebee’s to pay the bills. Before he started training at Applebee's, he was offered a low-paying administrative position as coordinator of basketball operations under then-coach Thad Matta. The position had opened up when assistant coach Jamal Meeks resigned after being arrested on solicitation and drug charges, of which he was later acquitted. Years later, Matta recalled, "[Stevens] was just a hungry young kid that was desperate to get into coaching. He had a great passion and was willing to take a risk to get into the coaching profession."
After Matta left the school following the 2000–01 season, new head coach Todd Lickliter promoted Stevens to a full-time assistant coach. Under Lickliter, Stevens was active in every aspect of the game: skills instruction, game preparation, in-game coaching, and recruiting. Butler was 131–61 during Stevens' time as an assistant coach.
Named head coach
On April 2, 2007, Lickliter resigned in order to take the head-coaching position at the University of Iowa. The Butler players had a meeting with athletic director Barry Collier, urging him to promote from within. Collier, having spent the entire season observing the assistant coaches' interaction with the team, agreed. The day after Lickliter resigned Stevens and Butler's two other assistant coaches interviewed for the job. Within 24 hours of the interviews Stevens was named Butler's new head coach. According to Collier, Stevens had something older, outside candidates could never match: six years of experience learning the Butler system, dubbed "The Butler Way" by Collier. "Age wasn't a factor because I'd seen his ability shine through during the course of the season," Collier said.
At the start of the 2007–08 season, Stevens was the second youngest coach in Division I basketball. He got off to a fast start, winning his first eight games before falling to Wright State 43–42. Legendary coach Bob Knight, whose Texas Tech team was an early victim, said "I wish we played as smart as they do." Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg added "they've got toughness about them and they expect to win."
Midway through Stevens' first season, with the Bulldogs at 12–1, The New York Times wrote "so far, Stevens has made the transition [to head coach] look easy." The Times went on to state that Stevens had the calm and composure of a seasoned veteran. "You’ve got a lot of people always looking for the next step. And that’s not what I was doing. I was just trying to figure out a way to win the next game and think like a head coach." Stevens said.
Butler ended the regular season with a 27–3 record, taking first place in the Horizon League with a 16–2 in conference mark. The team beat Illinois-Chicago 66–50 and Cleveland State 70–55 to claim the league's tournament title and an automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA tournament. Butler was awarded the seven seed in the East Regional. They beat tenth-seeded South Alabama 81–61 in the first round, before falling to second-seeded Tennessee 76–71 in overtime.
Stevens ended up with a school and Horizon league record 30 wins, beating several big name schools – Michigan, Texas Tech, Florida State, Ohio State – along the way. In so doing, he became the third-youngest head coach in NCAA Division I history to lead a team to 30 wins in a season, and became the fourth-winningest first-year coach. Butler was nationally ranked for a school and league record 19 consecutive weeks. Butler's 30–4 record was the best among teams that did not reach the Final Four. Stevens was a finalist for the Hugh Durham Award, losing to Keno Davis of Drake, and a finalist for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award, losing to Bo Ryan.
At the conclusion of the season, Butler signed Stevens to a seven-year contract. "We are extremely excited to reach this long-term agreement to have Brad continue to lead our program," Collier remarked.
Butler lost four starters after the 2007–08 season, and was picked to finish fifth in the Horizon league during the 2008–09 season. The team got off to a 12–1 start that won Stevens the Hugh Durham mid-season coaching award. On February 5, Stevens notched his 50th win as Butler beat Detroit 66–61. In so doing, Stevens became the sixth head coach in NCAA history to reach 50 wins in 56 games or fewer. Butler finished first in the Horizon League with a 15–3 in conference record, defying preseason expectations. Butler lost the Horizon League tournament final 57–54 to Cleveland State, but made the NCAA tournament as an at-large selection. The team received the nine seed in the South Regional, and lost to eighth-seeded Louisiana State in the first round by a score of 75–71 to finish the year at 26–6 overall.
Stevens' 56–10 two-year record places him second only to Bill Guthridge (58) in total wins during one's first two years as head coach. Stevens was a finalist for both the Hugh Durham and Jim Phelan Awards for the second straight year and was named the Horizon League Coach of the Year. He was also named as a finalist for the Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award. Stevens was given a one-year contract extension at the conclusion of the season.
Fueled in large part by Gordon Hayward's and Shelvin Mack's roles in leading Team USA to the gold medal in the FIBA Under-19 World Championship during the off-season, Butler began the season ranked 10th in the Coaches' Poll and 11th in the AP Poll. A few commentators picked the Bulldogs as a possible "sleeper team" to make the Final Four. Stevens was not so sure, privately telling his father, "We have a really good team, and I’m not sure how far we can go this year, but next year, we ought to go really far."
Butler got off to a mediocre start, losing twice in the 76 Classic 82–73 to 22nd-ranked Minnesota and to 19th-ranked Clemson 70–69. After the tournament Butler's record stood at 4–2 and the team dropped to #23 in the AP Poll and #20 in the Coaches' Poll. Butler won its next two games before falling to 13th-ranked Georgetown 72–65 in the Jimmy V Classic. The team won its next two games beating #15 Ohio State 74–66 and edging out former conference rival Xavier 69–68, both at home. After losing 67–57 at UAB three days later, Butler stood at 9–4 and fell out of the AP rankings. However, the team remained in the Coaches Poll at #23.
Stevens rallied the team, and they proceeded to win 16 straight games before facing Siena in a BracketBusters game. Butler beat Siena 70–53 and Stevens tied the NCAA record for most wins (81) by a head coach in his first three seasons set by Mark Few of Gonzaga in 2002 and tied by Mark Fox of Nevada in 2007.
On February 26, 2010, Butler traveled to Valparaiso for their regular season finale. Leading scorer Gordon Hayward was sidelined with lower back pain, but the team still won 74–69. In so doing, Stevens broke the coaching record he had tied the prior week and Butler completed an 18–0 undefeated conference schedule. It was Butler's first undefeated conference record since joining the Horizon League, and first since Joe Sexson led the 1978 team to a 6–0 record in the now defunct Indiana Collegiate Conference. Stevens earned his third straight regular-season conference championship.
In the Horizon league tournament, Stevens' Bulldogs used their home-court advantage to beat Milwaukee 68–59 in the semi-finals and to beat Wright State 70–45 in the finals. The win earned the team an automatic bid into the 2010 NCAA tournament, and completed a 20–0 run through league play. Stevens became the first coach to lead a Horizon League team to both an undefeated regular season and conference tournament since the league was formed in 1979. Stevens was also the only coach in Division I to lead his team to an undefeated conference schedule during the 2009–10 season.
For their season, the Bulldogs were ranked 8th in the final pre-NCAA tournament Coaches' Poll and 11th in the corresponding AP Poll. On Selection Sunday, the Bulldogs were seeded fifth in the West regional of the NCAA tournament and given a first-round match up with twelfth seeded UTEP on March 18.
Many basketball commentators picked UTEP to pull the upset, and at halftime it looked like they might be right, as UTEP led 33–27. Stevens made a number of halftime adjustments, and the Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. The team dominated the second half and won the game 77–59. Butler next faced off with thirteenth seeded Murray State. The game was close throughout, but Butler emerged victorious 54–52 when Hayward deflected a Murray State pass into the back court with less than five seconds on the clock. The win gave Stevens the first Sweet Sixteen appearance of his career.
On March 25, 2010, Butler faced top-seeded Syracuse. The Bulldogs got off to a good start, jumping out to a 12–1 lead and a 35–25 halftime advantage. Syracuse rallied in the second half, taking its first lead of the game, 40–39, off a Wes Johnson three-pointer. Stevens called timeout and Butler regained the lead on its next possession, stopping the run. At the 5:32 mark, Syracuse got a rare fast break opportunity that ended with a dunk and 54–50 lead. Stevens again called time out and re-focused the team. Butler responded by holding Syracuse scoreless for the next 5 minutes, taking a 60–54 lead with 0:59 to go. Butler held on to win 63–59, advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
Two days later, Stevens' Bulldogs met second-seeded Kansas State in the regional finals. Perhaps feeling the effects of their double overtime 101–96 win two days prior, Kansas State got off to a slow start, scoring just 20 points in the first half to trail 27–20. Butler kept the lead in the upper single digits for most of the second half, before Kansas State went on a 13–2 run and took a 52–51 lead. Stevens immediately called time out and re-focused the team. "Play your game. Just play your game," he told them. On the ensuing possession, Butler regained the lead for good. They outscored Kansas State 12–4 the rest of the way and won the game 63–56. In the post game celebration, Stevens and walk-on forward Emerson Kampen connected on a flying back-bump that became one of the iconic images of the tournament.
The win earned the Bulldogs a trip back to Indianapolis for the first Final Four appearance in school and Horizon League history. The win made Stevens, at age 33, the youngest coach to lead a team to the Final Four since Bob Knight made his first Final Four appearance at age 32 in 1973. Butler became the smallest school (enrollment 4,200) to make the Final Four since seeding began in 1979.
On April 3, Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs faced off with Michigan State in the national semi-finals. Michigan State took an early 14–7 lead, and Matt Howard got in early foul trouble, sitting most the first half. Stevens kept the team focused with a "next man up" attitude and the game was tied at 28 at halftime. The second half was dominated by tight defense for both sides. With 2:45 to go in the game, the score was 47–44 Butler. Michigan State called a time out to set up a play. Stevens correctly anticipated the play call and had Ronald Nored, the team's best defender, switch onto Korie Lucious off a screen. Nored stole the ball and Shawn Vanzant got fouled on the resulting run out, hitting 1 of 2. Trailing 50–49 with under 30 seconds remaining, Michigan State came up empty and was forced to foul. Nored hit both foul shots, giving Butler a 52–49 lead. After a Michigan State time out, Stevens had his team foul Lucious with 2 seconds remaining to prevent a potentially game tying 3-pointer. After making the first, Lucious intentionally missed the second free throw. Hayward came down with the rebound to seal the victory. Butler became the first team since the shot clock was adopted for the 1985–86 season to hold five straight tournament opponents under 60 points.
On April 5, 2010, Butler and Duke faced off in what The New York Times called "the most eagerly awaited championship game in years". Late in the first half, Duke went on an 8–0 run to take a 26–20 lead. Stevens called a timeout. With starters Matt Howard and Ronald Nored on the bench in foul trouble, Stevens was forced to call on backup center Avery Jukes who came up big for Butler. Jukes scored 10 first half points, tying his season high. At half time, Duke's lead stood at 33–32.
The second half was played very closely, with neither team taking a substantial lead. With 3:16 to play, Duke took a 60–55 lead on two made free throws by Nolan Smith. Butler cut the lead to one point in the final minute and, after a missed Kyle Singler jump shot with 36 seconds remaining, got a chance to retake the lead. Butler was unable to initiate their offense and Stevens called a timeout to set up a play. A failed inbounds attempt and a timeout later, Hayward missed a baseline fade-away jumper and Brian Zoubek came down with the rebound for Duke. He was quickly fouled with less than 4 seconds remaining. Hayward narrowly missed a desperation half-court shot court as time expired, making the final margin 61–59.
The loss snapped Butler's 25-game winning streak, the longest in school history. Butler became the smallest school to play for a National Championship since Jacksonville in 1970. Stevens became the second-youngest head coach to coach in the NCAA National Championship Game, behind Branch McCracken who led the Indiana Hoosiers to the 1940 National Championship at age 31. Stevens was named as both a Hugh Durham and Jim Phelan Award finalist for the third consecutive year, losing to Mike Young and Jamie Dixon respectively. He was also a finalist for the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award, which was won by Bob Marlin.
After the end of the 2009–10 season, Brad Stevens and Butler continued to attract considerable attention. President Barack Obama personally called Stevens to congratulate him on Butler's season. David Letterman had Stevens on his show for a guest appearance. Butler admissions inquiries shot up 67%. Stevens received fan letters from around the world, and his phone rang off the hook. He was invited to throw the ceremonial first pitch before the Chicago Cubs vs. Florida Marlins game in Chicago on May 10. "It's all been very surreal," Stevens said. "If you are the runner-up, you don't expect to talk to the president." "It's been a little overwhelming, because I'm a pretty simple guy," he added.
The 2009–10 season also helped increase Butler's recruiting profile. Asked if the increased fame would change things, Stevens said it better not spoil him or the university. "I look at this new challenge of not changing and sticking to your core values and making sure you remain humble as a great coaching opportunity."
Rankings by ESPN's Andy Katz and Fox Sports' Jeff Goodman released shortly after the 2010 Championship game both had Butler third for the 2010–2011 season. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski agreed, saying Butler would be"right up there, No. 1 or No. 2... They'll be a favorite next year." However, Hayward chose to leave early for the NBA Draft and Butler went through a rough patch early in the season, at one point losing three straight games and having a 6–5 conference record. Bolstered by the emergence of Andrew Smith at center and Matt Howard's success as a perimeter forward, Butler ended up winning a share of the conference title at 13–5. The Bulldogs then won the Horizon League Tournament to secure an automatic NCAA tournament bid, and received an 8 seed.
Picked by many to lose a first-round match-up against Old Dominion, Butler advanced on a last-second tip-in by Howard. Howard was also clutch in their next game, hitting a free throw with a less than one second remaining to beat Pitt in a dramatic finish. Shelvin Mack scored 30 points in the win. Butler won their next game when they defeated Wisconsin. On March 26, 2011, the Bulldogs beat Florida 74–71 in overtime to earn back-to-back trips to the Final Four. On April 2, Butler beat fellow Cinderella team VCU 70–62 to make it to a second consecutive national championship game. For the second consecutive year, the Bulldogs fell in the national championship game, this time to Connecticut.
On April 8, 2010, Stevens signed a long-term deal with Butler, extending his contract through the 2021–22 season. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed; however, Butler president Bobby Fong had publicly stated that the university could afford to increase Stevens' base salary to approximately US $1,000,000 a few days prior. Stevens had previously made US$395,000 plus benefits in base salary, a relatively low figure for a successful Division I head basketball coach. His total compensation for 2009–10 was estimated at US$750,000. Stevens had received a raise after each of his three seasons at Butler and his contract contains a buyout clause estimated in the high six or low seven figures.
|“||What Butler is, Butler is a great school. We're in a great city. We have a niche from the standpoint of basketball with a good tradition of basketball and a fieldhouse that really embraces the history of the game. So we're very unique. I think being unique is a good thing, too. I think Butler, certainly you always want to improve the facilities you have. We need to do that. There's no question about that. But we also need to remember who we are. I think that's why we're here, because we've got unselfish guys. They have a great passion for history, tradition, team, things like that. So we've been able to recruit to that.||”|
|— Brad Stevens, responding to a question about his future and Butler University|
By re-signing with Butler, Stevens temporarily ended speculation that he would leave the university for a higher paying job. Oregon, Clemson, and Wake Forest were all said to be interested in offering Stevens multi-million dollar contracts to leave Butler. "First and foremost, I’m loyal to Butler," Stevens said. When asked if he would ever leave Butler, Stevens replied "I guess if they kicked me out."
In March 2013, UCLA reportedly offered Stevens between $2.5 and $3 million a year to leave Butler. Rumors circulated that Stevens was in contract negotiations with UCLA, but ultimately the rumors proved false and Stevens stayed at Butler. Commenting on the situation, a source close to Stevens said "Brad doesn't understand why people would assume he's leaving." A few days later, Stevens reiterated that he was very happy at Butler and had no intentions to leave as long as he had the support of the university to continue running the program the "right way".
On July 3, 2013, Stevens was signed as the head coach by the Boston Celtics. Reports state that his new contract is a six-year, $22 million deal. In April 2015, Stevens led the Celtics to the NBA Playoffs as the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference with a 40–42 record. On April 21, 2015, it was announced that Stevens finished fourth in voting for the NBA's Coach of the Year Award. On March 1, 2016, Stevens was named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for games played during February. In April 2016, Brad Stevens led the Celtics to their second consecutive playoff appearance under his tenure as the 5th seed in the 2016 NBA Playoffs finishing the season with a 48–34 record. On June 1, 2016, Stevens received a contract extension.
According to Stevens, in one of his first games as head coach, he was nervous and "felt like our team played on edge" because of it. He decided that a team's play will reflect the mood of its coach; a calm coach means a team that will remain poised in difficult game situations, while a nervous coach means a team that plays on edge. "I don’t want to lose a game because of my approach," he told himself. Accordingly, he developed a strategy of always remaining calm and focused during games. He rarely raises his voice or gets emotional, instead quietly observing on the sideline with folded arms. He does not get upset about bad calls by referees or player mistakes, preferring to focus on "the next play" rather than what just happened. Butler player Willie Veasley explained Butler's 2010 Final Four run by saying, "When those big runs [by Syracuse and Kansas State] came, Coach called a timeout and said a few calm words. Then he said he believes in us, he loves us and we're going to win the game." On the rare occasion Stevens feels the need to correct a player, he does it with "positive reinforcement, just at a little louder decibel", according to former assistant coach Matthew Graves. Above all, Stevens wants his players to be confident, not living in fear of being yanked for making a bad play.
Externally, Stevens is always calm, but internally he is far from it. "I'm not as calm as everybody thinks," Stevens says. His wife Tracy adds, "He’s calm and collected, but he’s fiercely competitive. He’s always thinking about how he can beat you." Former player Joel Cornette says "Everyone sees Brad as a level-headed, calm and cool coach, but he’s about as competitive of a guy as I know. We would get into it constantly, whether playing two-on-two or arguing about players’ having better college careers."
Stevens spends a lot of time preparing for each game, and always tries to add a few new wrinkles specific to that game's opponent. Sports Illustrated calls Stevens an expert "on breaking down tape and looking at statistical trends to find opponents' weaknesses." Former player Ronald Nored agrees: "We know everything we need to about our opponents, all their tendencies are broken down" ahead of time.
Stevens is a proponent of using statistical analysis to enhance his coaching decisions, spending almost as much time looking at statistics as watching game film. "I think it's a unique way of looking at the game that may be able to help best communicate to your players", he explains. For example, when Butler was slumping in late 2010, Stevens challenged his team: "this [46% defensive field goal percentage] is where we are. This isn't acceptable to get to where we want to go. But what does that really mean? It's not just get better defensively, it is, if we give up 3 less baskets a game, then we will be at 40 percent field goal percentage defense which will be top 20 in the country". The team got the message, improved throughout the season, and ultimately went on a March run fueled by defense. In 2012, Stevens became the first college coach to hire someone solely for statistical research when he added Drew Cannon to the staff. If he had the resources, Stevens says he would hire a team of statisticians to analyze the teams play.
Stevens' teams are built around solid basketball fundamentals and good team work, rather than individual basketball skill. His teams are known for their defense, forcing opponents into uncharacteristic mistakes. The secret to basketball – and life – is "just to do the job to the best of your ability and don't worry about anything else," Stevens says. "Win the next game. Win the next possession. That's our focus. It's boring. It's also the way championships are won", he says. In short, Stevens is a strong believer in "The Butler Way" – doing all the little things that transform a group of good basketball players into a great basketball team. "I tell the players 'the Butler Way' isn't easy to define," Stevens says, "but you can see it on the floor when we share the basketball, play with great energy and defend."
Stevens prefers to recruit strong team players instead of going after "top recruits." "The guys we [have] recruited, most of them weren't very highly ranked," Stevens says. "They had very good high school careers or careers at other places (transfers), but for one reason or the other they weren't seen as great players. But they all had intangibles." Stevens puts a strong emphasis on education and has said he would only recruit a "one and done" player if he was committed to getting his degree while playing professionally.
Stevens has often been referred to as a coaching prodigy, but is not interested in self-promotion. He instead prefers to deflect the praise he receives to the players, athletic department, and his mentors. He has not been known to posture for more money, or to leak his name for open coaching positions. He has been described as humble, modest, and not "about the money".
The New York Times, USA Today, ESPN, and other commentators have attributed Butler's success against teams with superior athletes to Stevens' coaching style. The Times remarks, "the Bulldogs are very well prepared for their opponents, and they do not rattle easily", and says that the resulting confidence has led to the team's success. "He coaches to his personality and to his strengths," Collier says. "Obviously, he has great rapport and communication ability with his team." Yahoo! Sports compared Stevens to legendary coach John Wooden writing "Brad Stevens is winning at Butler the Wooden way – calm and composed on the sideline." Wooden agreed, saying, "I enjoy watching [Stevens] and very much enjoy [Butler's] style of play."
Brad Stevens is known for his youthful looks, often being described as "baby-faced". One commentator remarked, "Stevens looks like he checks the mirror every morning to see if it's time to start shaving." On occasion, he has been mistaken for a player. He is also known for projecting a professional, "corporate" look from the sidelines. Asked what his life would be like if he had never taken up coaching, he replies "If everything else remained the same, I would have been as happy as heck... Friends and family and faith, they're going to take the cake over all this stuff." Stevens met his wife, Tracy (née Wilhelmy), while attending DePauw University. Tracy, who played soccer for DePauw, quickly learned of Brad's love for basketball; on their third date he drove her an hour and a half to attend a high school basketball game. Tracy graduated from Rocky River High School in 1995, and from DePauw in 1999. She returned to school in 2000, driving five hours from Case Western's law school to Indianapolis on weekends to see Brad. She finished her final year of law school in Indianapolis, and the couple married in August 2003. Tracy works as a labor and employment lawyer. Tracy also serves as Brad's agent.
Brad and Tracy Stevens are involved with the American Cancer Society's Coaches Vs. Cancer. Brad says that the cause really hit home for them after Tracy's mother died of the disease in June 2004. The day before Butler's 2010 Final Four appearance, they hosted a fundraiser for the organization. Brad Stevens has also volunteered his time to the Jukes Foundation for Kids, a charity benefiting Ugandan children run by former Butler player Avery Jukes. Stevens remains in close touch with the Butler basketball family; he notably took a one-game leave from the Celtics in January 2016 to visit with Andrew Smith, a player on both of Butler's Final Four teams who was dying of cancer; Smith died less than a week later. At the request of Andrew's widow, Sam, Brad delivered the eulogy at the memorial service on January 17, 2016.
Stevens' father, Mark, is an orthopedic surgeon in Indianapolis and former Indiana Hoosiers football player. His mother, Jan, is a university professor. She has previously taught at Butler.
Head coaching record
|Butler Bulldogs (Horizon League) (2007–2012)|
|2007–08||Butler||30–4||16–2||1st||NCAA Round of 32|
|2008–09||Butler||26–6||15–3||1st||NCAA Round of 64|
|Butler Bulldogs (Atlantic 10 Conference) (2012–2013)|
|2012–13||Butler||27–9||11–5||T–3rd||NCAA Round of 32|
|Butler:||166–49 (.772)||84–22 (.792)|
National champion Postseason invitational champion
|Regular season||G||Games coached||W||Games won||L||Games lost||W–L %||Win-loss %|
|Post season||PG||Playoff games||PW||Playoff wins||PL||Playoff losses||PW–L %||Playoff win-loss %|
|Boston||2013–14||82||25||57||.305||4th in Atlantic||—||—||—||—||Missed Playoffs|
|Boston||2014–15||82||40||42||.488||2nd in Atlantic||4||0||4||.000||Lost in First Round|
|Boston||2015–16||82||48||34||.585||2nd in Atlantic||6||2||4||.333||Lost in First Round|
Awards and nominations
- Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award finalist (2009)
- Horizon League Coach of the Year (2009, 2010)
- Hugh Durham Award for Mid-major Coach of the Year finalist (2008, 2009, 2010)
- Hugh Durham Award Mid-season honors (2009)
- Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award finalist (2008, 2009, 2010)
- Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award finalist (2010)