SALT LAKE CITY — Fond memories washed over Celtics coach Brad Stevens when he entered EnergySolutions Arena for shootaround early Monday.
“When I walked in, it gave me chills,” he said prior to the Celtics’ 110-98 loss to the Utah Jazz. “One of the greatest sporting moments that I’ve ever been apart of [happened here].”
In the 2010 NCAA Tournament, fifth-seeded Butler, then coached by Stevens, faced top-seeded Syracuse in the West Regional semifinals here.
Behind 17 points from former Bulldog and current Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, Butler pulled off a 63-59 upset to advance to its first regional finals appearance.
In the next game, Butler faced second-seeded Kansas State — and the Bulldogs pulled off another upset, advancing to the Final Four back home in Indianapolis after a 63-56 win.
“The whole time, we’re thinking, ‘We’re going back to Indiana for class — and for the Final Four,’ ” Stevens said. “It was pretty remarkable when you think about it.”
“I think everybody counted us out,” Hayward recalled. “I remember being in the hotel watching analysts talk about the games with my teammates and they basically said we had no chance neither game.
“That just kind of fueled us and put a fire in us. I can remember us kind of sealing the deal and being out on the court and just thinking, ‘Man, I can’t believe this was real.’ ”
Hayward also recalled that after the Kansas State win, “[Stevens] and one of my teammates jumped in the air and everybody went crazy.”
Stevens remembers Hayward, then a sophomore, hitting an impressive, step-back 3-pointer over a Kansas State player. After the shot went in, Stevens turned to the bench and declared, “We better go to the Final Four because he’s gone [to the NBA].”
Sure enough, Hayward declared for the NBA after the season and was drafted ninth overall by the Jazz.
Butler’s Cinderella run ended with a loss to Duke in the national championship, but Stevens said the memories of Butler’s wins here were more powerful than their national title run the next year.
“Just because it was such a new experience for all of us to come in here and beat a No. 1 seed and a No. 2 seed and then go back home to a Final Four,” he said.
Stevens recalled that the team plane taking them home was stuck on the runway for about three hours. “And it didn’t matter,” he said. “They could’ve delayed it for two days and none of us would’ve cared. It was all about your mind-set at that point and it was neat to be a part of.”
Hayward said he couldn’t remember the delay at all.
“We could’ve been sitting there for four hours, but it would’ve felt like 20 minutes, because we were all so excited,” Hayward said.
“I remember when we came back home, it was really late, but when we got off the bus at [Butler’s] Hinkle [Fieldhouse], it was still a mob. It had to be 2 in the morning and there were still people there waiting and this was in the middle of March in Indiana. These guys were dedicated. They loved us. It was great.”
Sullinger still out
Jared Sullinger missed his second consecutive game with a mild concussion, which he suffered after being elbowed in the head late in the Celtics’ loss Friday to the Lakers in Los Angeles. Sullinger is considered day to day.
“I think he feels a lot better [Monday],” Stevens said. “He had a little bit of a headache getting off the plane [here Sunday], which obviously you’re going to have. There is a progression of doing this the right way and we will be right in helping him get back and healthy.”
Wallace in pain
Celtics swingman Gerald Wallace said he has been battling back spasms since the game against the Lakers.
“My back got kind of tight, so I don’t really know what’s going on,” Wallace said recently. “[Celtics trainer] Ed [Lacerte] said it might have been from the falls. He said I can’t fall like I used to. My back is trying to protect itself so it [did] spasm out.”
The 31-year-old Wallace, nicknamed “Crash” in part because of all the falls he’s taken, played 30 minutes Monday, picking up 4 points, 2 steals, and 2 rebounds.
In most circumstances, a player or a coach is only ejected from a game after being assessed two technical fouls.
Stevens was ejected after being assessed just one technical Saturday night against Sacramento, but that is legal, according to the NBA rules.
Under Part B of Section V of Rule 12, which discusses fouls and penalties, “a maximum of two technicals for unsportsmanlike acts may be assessed any player, coach or trainer. Any of these offenders may be ejected for committing only one unsportsmanlike act, and they must be ejected for committing two unsportsmanlike acts.”
Baxter Holmes can be reached at email@example.com