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POPE: Brad Stevens move caps big week in college hoops

New BostCeltics head coach Brad Stevens stands Celtics emblem half-court following news conference where he was introduced Friday July 5

New Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens stands on the Celtics emblem at half-court following a news conference where he was introduced Friday, July 5, 2013, at the NBA basketball team's training facility in Waltham, Mass. Stevens twice led the Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA title game. He replaces Doc Rivers, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

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Updated: July 5, 2013 10:42PM



It was one of the more unique media sessions I’ve ever attended.

It was March of 2011. The Butler men’s basketball team had earned its second consecutive trip to the Final Four.

Before taking off for Houston, players and coaches met with reporters at famed Hinkle Fieldhouse, the home of the Bulldogs in Indianapolis.

Fans were there as well, waiting around to get autographs of players once the recorders and cameras were turned off. Some kids were dribbling basketballs on one end of the court.

Butler coach Brad Stevens stood near a table on another area of the floor. He talked about a turning point of the Bulldogs’ season and the encouraging messages and letters he received along the way. One that stood out came from his coach at DePauw. It was a cartoon from the New Yorker that had a superhero sitting on an island.

“And then he pops his head up and says ‘oh yeah, I can fly,’ ” Stevens said at the time.

Stevens took a leap of his own this week, going from the college game to the NBA. He was introduced as the coach of the Boston Celtics on Friday.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for the opportunity, but I also want to thank and appreciate Butler. There’s been a lot of emotions the last few days. I love the opportunity and I’m thrilled, but it was hard to leave. I had a great opportunity there,” Stevens said during the introductory news conference.

Stevens spent an early portion of the news conference thanking the Butler administrators, faculty, coaching staff and players.

“I wouldn’t be sitting there without them,” he said. “I’m not one of these guys that’s crazy enough to think I’m here because of me. I’m here because I fooled a couple of these guys and because we’ve had great people on our bus all the way through.”

The move capped a fascinating week of change in college basketball. It all started Monday when several schools officially switched conferences.

Some members of the old Big East like Cincinnati and Connecticut became part of the American Athletic Conference. The rebooted Big East features seven holdovers, including Georgetown, DePaul and Marquette. Xavier, Creighton and Stevens’ former school, Butler, joined them.

The ACC expanded, welcoming Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the mix. Those schools were formerly fixtures in the Big East.

“I know at Notre Dame we are honored to be part of this thing,” Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey said during a news conference streamed on the ACC’s website Monday.

Those were just some of the conference shifts.

“It’s a long time in coming. The landscape, as we all know, has been challenging in major college athletics for the last decade. This day means a great deal to me because I am so pleased with the 15 member institutions that the Atlantic Coast Conference has and what that means in terms of our capabilities, our opportunities going forward and what it means in terms of the quality of this league both academically and athletically,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said during the ACC news conference Monday.

I just hope we are getting a little closer to a period of time where the conference affiliation wheel stops spinning. There will be some more movement next year — Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten, and Louisville to the ACC are among the changes. But it would be nice to let fans get to know some of their new conference opponents and let new rivalries develop before another round of shakeups.

Stevens won’t have to worry about that. His departure is a loss for the college game, but Butler had some success before he took over as coach (the 2007 appearance in the Sweet 16 is just one example) and will still be a force in the Big East and a tough out come tournament time.

If given the players, Stevens will succeed at the next level. The track record isn’t great for basketball coaches making the move from college to the pros, but it often comes down to the roster the coach has to work with.

Win or lose, I bet there will be great college positions available for a coach of his caliber.

Just ask Rick Pitino.



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