Scary for Jazz? Brad Stevens, Gordon Hayward's old coach, hired as Celtics head coach
Michael Conroy, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz might want to lock down that contract extension for Gordon Hayward as soon as they possibly can.
That might sound a tad dramatic, but one of the most influential people in the 23-year-old Hayward's life is now coaching another team.
In a stunning development, Boston hired Butler's Brad Stevens to replace Doc Rivers as the Celtics' new head coach Wednesday.
Stevens has coached at the small Indianapolis school for the past six seasons, including two years with Hayward.
"It will be fun being on the other side of the court competing against him," Hayward said in a statement released by Jazz PR on Wednesday.
This past season, Hayward was asked whether he thought the Butler coach could make it in an NBA job.
"If he wanted to do it, I'm sure he could," Hayward said. "(Stevens) is one of the best coaches I've ever played for, so I think anything he sets his mind to he's more than capable of doing."
Thanks to Danny Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations, Stevens will get that chance in the world's top league after leading Butler to two NCAA title games and a 166-49 record.
"Our family is thrilled for the opportunity given to us by the leadership of the Boston Celtics, but it is emotional to leave a place that we have called home for the past 13 years," Stevens said in a statement through Butler.
"We truly love Butler University and Indianapolis, and are very thankful to have had the opportunity to celebrate so many wonderful things together. What makes Butler truly unique is the people that we have been so blessed to work with. When it comes time for our kids to look at schools, we will start with Butler University."
Hayward and power forward Derrick Favors are both eligible to sign contract extensions with the Jazz this offseason — something that is expected to be discussed by Utah brass and their representatives later this summer.
Although it is intriguing that Hayward's trusted mentor now has an NBA job, there is no indication that the Jazz player would want to leave Utah to play for Boston. Even if Hayward and Utah can't come to an agreement on an extension this summer, the Jazz still have an upper hand in bringing the young talent back. Utah would only need to give him a qualifying offer next offseason to make him a restricted free agent, allowing the organization to match any potential deal in 2014.
Hayward, training for an upcoming Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas later this month, tweeted out his response shortly after the announcement.
"Huge congrats to @BUCoachStevens!!!" Hayward wrote. "Will be missed at butler for sure...does this mean I can call you rook now, coach? Haha."
In his statement, Hayward added: "I am extremely excited about the opportunity for Coach Stevens to coach at the next level. I know he will be missed at Butler because of everything he’s done for the program."
Three years after their college partnership ended, Hayward maintains a strong relationship with the coach who convinced him to choose Butler instead of his parents' alma mater, Purdue.
"We're always talking back and forth," Hayward said of the 36-year-old Stevens.
Hayward's decision to play for Stevens paid off big-time. The Bulldogs made it to the NCAA championship game in 2010 — earning a trip to the Final Four with two wins in Salt Lake City — and the small forward's stock rose to the point he was drafted ninth overall by Utah after leaving following his sophomore season.
The Jazz player was also asked which Butler guy might next make it to the NBA.
"Coach Stevens develops guys sometimes out of nowhere," said Hayward, who's Exhibit A in that testimony. "You never know who could be next."
Turns out, it was Stevens.
The opportunity opened up recently when Rivers left to coach the Los Angeles Clippers in a move that also resulted in Boston getting compensated with a first-round pick. Interestingly, Stevens had signed a 10-year extension with Big East-bound Butler this spring.
Now he has a new deal in Boston, reportedly for six seasons.
"Brad and I share a lot of the same values," Ainge said in a statement. "Though he is young, I see Brad as a great leader who leads with impeccable character and a strong work ethic. His teams always play hard and execute on both ends of the court. Brad is a coach who has already enjoyed lots of success, and I look forward to working with him towards Banner 18."
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