When Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was mulling the decision of whether to leave a comfortable environment at Butler and move to the NBA, there was a little personal tug-of-war.
He could almost remain a college coach as long as he wanted, having taken Butler to a pair of championship games. The challenge of the NBA awaited, though.
And Stevens wasn’t able to say no.
It was a gamble, but the decision has paid off for Stevens, who has ascended into the elite category of coaches in the NBA with the Celtics.
It’s a similar situation for Michigan coach John Beilein, who looks to be a finalist to become the head coach of the Detroit Pistons.
The difference is that Beilein is 65, and Stevens is only 41. Besides age, there are many more similarities in their career arcs. Stevens started as head coach at Butler in 2007, the same year that Beilein began at Michigan and Stevens moved to the Celtics in 2013, the same year that Beilein took the Wolverines to the title game.
“He’s done an incredible job. No doubt, he’s one of the best coaches at any level in the world,” Stevens said Tuesday on the Dan Dakich Show on 1070 AM in Indianapolis. “Like anybody else, if he makes the move to the NBA, it’s not about how good a coach he is; it’s about how supported he is.”
As Beilein remains in consideration for the Pistons job, it’s becoming more and more of a reality to Michigan fans that he could be switching from the maize and blue to the Pistons’ red, white and blue.
Beilein and Stevens competed for recruits along the way, but Beilein, who has been at Michigan for 11 years, could be chasing his curiosity in seeing what the NBA has to offer, much like Stevens did.
This year, Stevens’ Celtics had a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Game 7. The move was worth it, but it was more about having a supportive and understanding front office that understood the process.
“At the end of the day, here, the thing we tried to evaluate when deciding to make this move — because we had such a special situation at Butler — was from an ownership and front-office standpoint, how committed would they be to the ups and downs,” Stevens said. “(The Celtics) lost 27 games in the regular season this year and (eight) more in the playoffs.
“That’s 35 times to ride the emotional roller coaster to the valley. If people aren’t in it for the long haul and aren’t process-driven and don’t understand that there are going to be ups and downs, this can be a really emotional ride.”
The Pistons finished 39-43 this season and have made the playoffs once in the last decade, so some modicum of patience is needed in getting them back on the right track. That’s where Beilein’s candidacy is something of a head-scratcher, but getting more talent and better player development would be at the top of Beilein’s to-do list.