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Career at DePauw helped shape Celtics coach Stevens

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

(Photo)
Former DePauw basketball player Brad Stevens poses before his senior season in 1998.
(Courtesy photo/DEPAUW ATHLETICS)
Brad Stevens didn't come to DePauw so he could become an NBA coach.

"Not even close; never crossed my mind," he told the Banner Graphic on Tuesday.

It just kind of worked out that way.

Stevens, recently hired as head coach of the Boston Celtics, graduated from DePauw University in 1999, but his life in Greencastle didn't stop then, nor did it begin when he was first recruited by men's basketball coach Bill Fenlon.

"A lot of my family on my mom's side went to DePauw," Stevens said, "and my dad was the team doctor for DePauw athletics since the early 80s."

Stevens grew up in Zionsville and his passion for the Hoosiers and college basketball has been well documented. His fandom of the NBA hasn't been covered with quite as much depth.

"When I was growing up, the NBA was in such a fun point in time to watch," he said. "When you're considering the Celtics, the Lakers (of the 1980s) ... When I got into high school, the Bulls run. Those were some of the more memorable NBA games that I've ever watched.

"On top of that, I was a huge Pacers fan. I wore 31 because I wanted to be like Reggie Miller, as a lot of kids did in the State of Indiana."

After an impressive high school career in both basketball and academics, Stevens had a variety of collegiate choices available to him.

When he met with DePauw's coach and looked at the academic options available to him there, it was an easy decision.

"I love coach Fenlon," Stevens said. "Ultimately, I made the decision because of coach Fenlon and because of the Management Fellows program. ... I just wanted to go and get a great education and figure out what I wanted to do next.

"I knew that if I went to DePauw I'd be challenged to think and learn and grow."

The Management Fellows led to a job at Eli Lilly after he graduated. The compatibility with Fenlon helped fuel his passion for coaching, and his analytics style.

Stevens studied economics and has always been a numbers guy. This lines up perfectly with the coaching philosophy of Fenlon.

DePauw's coach uses analytics and stats to develop game strategies, both over and on specific plays. He has done elaborate research on outcomes and philosophies.

Everything comes down to numbers for Fenlon, including which side of the court the guard calls a timeout.

That detail, and communicating it to his players, is something Stevens has also tried to do. He said he's not trying to copy Fenlon's style, it's just "kind of the way you're wired."

"Certainly I remember him using numbers quite a bit," Stevens said. "Every guy learns differently, but numbers can be very effective in telling a story and communicating a strategy."

While coming up with strategies and ways to achieve unparalleled success at Butler took up most of Stevens's time in the past few years, he did still find time to follow his alma mater last season when the women's team made its run to the NCAA Division III national championship.

"I was paying attention to the results," he said. "I texted coach Huffman a couple of times during their run."

He also started following the NBA a little more closely. Having two former Butler players to watch -- Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack -- helped, but he also got to know some coaches in the league.

That helped fuel him as fan, and as a student of the NBA game.

"There's always time to catch a game on TV," he said. "I've spent a lot of time talking to people that were coaching at this level that had some ideas, both technically and managing people."

Stevens is still catching up on the financial structure of building a team in the NBA and the league's collective bargaining agreement, he said, but as an honors economics student, he should pick it up quickly.

When he starts to study it, firing the same synapses in his brain as he did in college, it might just take him back to his time at DePauw.

"You tell stories about the fun times you had with your teammates; sometimes those were the practices that didn't go so well," he said. "The best thing about it was the relationships that you build with your teammates.

"I think that's the best thing about sports in general."



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