Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward loses Butler battle to former coach Brad Stevens
Elise Amendola, AP
BOSTON — It might’ve been more fitting if Wednesday’s basketball game between the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics had taken place at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The contest definitely had an Indianapolis feel to it with the two most recognizable figures from Butler University on opposing ends of the TD Garden parquet floor.
On the visitors’ side: 2010 NCAA player of the year Gordon Hayward.
On the home bench: former Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens.
This round went to the man who recruited the Jazz player in high school and jokingly asked, "You think we should offer that guy a scholarship? Nobody's looking at him?"
Both Hayward and Stevens anticipated the game — won by the 1-4 Celtics 97-87 despite 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Hayward and the 0-5 Jazz — and spoke highly of each other before going against each other for the first time.
"I’ve probably done it in an intrasquad scrimmage before," Stevens admitted. "The results of that didn’t matter really much."
This one meant a lot for Hayward, though.
“When I go out there and see him in that green and see him on the opposing side, that’s kind of when it will hit me," he said an hour before tipoff. "The last time I played for him was in the national championship game."
That was in 2010.
Though they’re in the same league again, Hayward and Stevens haven’t had the time to keep up with each other since the pupil sent the teacher congratulatory text messages after he was hired by Boston to replace Doc Rivers and briefly visited at the Orlando Pro Summer League in July.
"He’s obviously got a lot going on, as do we," Stevens said.
They briefly exchanged greetings before the game and planned on chatting longer after postgame media interviews ended.
Hayward’s mentor from 2008-10 got caught up on what the former Butler star has been doing this season while preparing for Wednesday’s game.
"You watch the film and in a lot of ways I’m a proud coach because you’re watching and you’re really enjoying watching him," Stevens said. "Then you get sick to your stomach because you’ve got to play against him."
Stevens laughed while recalling his early days with Hayward, whom he described as “a 6-7 gangly kid” who was playing more tennis than basketball at the time he committed to Butler.
"He committed to us on June 1," Stevens said. "He really didn’t pick up a basketball until September other than maybe on Sunday mornings with his dad because he wanted to win a state championship in tennis."
That didn’t happen.
Coincidentally, Hayward’s only tennis defeat for Brownsburg High School in the regular season came with his future coach in attendance.
"The one time I saw him play, he got beat," Stevens said. "He was wearing a Purdue hat and Purdue shorts, so I wasn’t very happy with him after that."
Hayward’s parents, Gordon Scott and Jody, are both Boilermaker alumni.
"It was double awkward," Hayward said, smiling about being caught wearing gear from another school. "It was definitely not a good experience for him to be there when I lost."
Stevens is nothing but impressed with the way Hayward has improved as a basketball player since his high school days.
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