INDIANAPOLIS — As far as Sunday’s game was concerned, there weren’t many emotions for Celtics coach Brad Stevens. The emotions were in his coming back to this city, where he coached Butler University, where he made numerous friendships that will last a lifetime.
“The emotions are seeing friends, getting texts, [seeing] where everybody’s seats are, trying to point out everybody and get a chance to say hello,” he said before the Pacers and Celtics played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse here.
He spent much of the day shaking hands and catching up with family, friends and former colleagues, such as his replacement as Butler’s basketball coach, Brandon Miller, and his former athletic director there, Barry Collier, both of whom attended the Pacers’ 106-79 blowout, sitting in the front row.
And when Stevens met with members of the local media, he called them by their first name.
Questions, of course, focused on his adjustment to the professional game and how he likes Boston and coaching the Celtics.
“Everybody has been so good to us,” Stevens said of the Boston community. “I’m still pretty new to town. I get lost everywhere I go because the streets aren’t exactly in blocks like here.
“But everybody has been great to our family. It’s been an easy transition. It’s a neat fanbase to play in front of. And they understand where we are and where we’re trying to get to.”
He was also asked, simply, how he’s holding up through the grind of an NBA schedule.
“I’m good,” he said. “People have asked about the losses because you lose more. You’re going to lose more. Good teams are going to lose 30 times. That’s just part of it.
“You move on a lot quicker from wins and losses because you better, otherwise you’re going to be toast for the next one. There is something fun about these back-to-backs I enjoy, but they are very taxing.
“One of the things that I’ve got a better appreciation for is all these guys, how well they have to take care of their bodies, because it is a long grind and we’re not even halfway through the season.”
Stevens has kept a close eye on Butler, watching almost every game. He has also kept in touch with the staff members and players. Does he miss the college game?
“You know, I think that’s a really good question,” he began. “I’ve enjoyed each year that I’ve coached. This is obviously a challenge — and I knew it would be — because we’re in a position where we’re really in a process of growth.
“But I’ve also been in situations at Butler like that in certain years and the things that I enjoy seeing are the small steps and the small improvements, the incremental improvements.
Stevens noted that the volume of games is much higher, but he pointed out that he also gets the summers off, whereas before he would’ve spent much of the summer recruiting players.
“So it’s an interesting dynamic,” he said. “I’ll be able to better answer after a year.”
Indiana coach Frank Vogel and Stevens are friends, and Vogel said that friendship began one summer day years ago when Stevens visited then-Pacers coach Jim O’Brien to talk basketball.
“I came into work one morning and he had just arrived for a little chalk-talk session with Coach O’Brien to kind of pick his brain and share ideas and whatnot,” Vogel said.
Vogel came in, sat down, and they all talked basketball for about four hours.
Stevens said it wasn’t unusual for him to talk to other coaches on all levels — from NBA, college and high school — when he coached at Butler.
And in that regard, Stevens again credited the advice of one of his former colleagues at Butler, former Bulldogs head coach Todd Lickliter:
“Todd says this one time, ‘Great coaching is not exclusive to one level,’ ” Stevens said. “And so you just try to pick the brains of whoever you can find.”
Stevens and Vogel share several similarities, beyond the fact that both are young (Vogel is 40, Stevens is 37) and look enough alike that Vogel said he has often been mistaken for Stevens.
Both were also point guards for Division 3 basketball teams in college — Stevens for DePauw University in Greencastle Indiana, Vogel for Juniata College in Huntington, Pa.
“I can’t speak of his playing days, but I know as an unathletic point guard like myself, you need to think the game harder than most athletes have to think the game,” Vogel said with a smile. “I think that’s benefited me as a coach and perhaps benefited him as well.”
Stevens noted that there are similarities, but he pointed out the differences, too.
“His route here was a lot different than mine,” Stevens said. “Part of his route started with the Celtics in the video room.”
Yet Stevens started out as an unpaid assistant with Butler, so both coaches had rather low-profile jobs at the beginning.
“We probably both would say — I don’t know what he would say, but I appreciate those days as much as I appreciate being the head coach.” Stevens said.
“There’s probably some similarities. Maybe more so because the place I used to see him was at a park in Carmel [Indiana] with our kids, more than anything else.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.