NEW ORLEANS – Selection Sunday.
Those two words alone brought a smile to Brad Stevens’s face — along with many memories from his time as the head coach at Butler University.
“My wife actually said [Sunday] that this was the day that she probably misses the most out of college,” the rookie Celtics coach said before his team lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, 121-120, in overtime at the Smoothie King Center.
“Because you get people together — and especially if you know you’re in the tournament — and you sit there and you watch and you find out like everybody else does at the same time where you’re headed.
“I think that’s part of the allure of it all. And it really is a great tournament to be a part of. I’m really happy to be where I am and excited about what I’m doing, but that is a fun part of basketball, for fans at any level.”
Selection Sunday, when the NCAA Tournament seedings are announced, was almost an annual event for Stevens in his six seasons as Butler’s coach.
The Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Tournament in five of those seasons, including reaching the NCAA title game in seasons 2010 and 2011.
All told, Stevens posted a 12-5 record in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach.
Stevens enjoyed Selection Sunday before assuming the top job at Butler, though, as the Bulldogs had reached the NCAAs in three other seasons when he was on the staff.
As for this year, Stevens said, “I’ll eventually look at the bracket. I haven’t filled out a bracket in so long that I’m not going to probably stew over it. I’ll look and see where my friends are, figure out what time they play, and hopefully get a glimpse of them.”
Stevens said he remembered his last game in this arena, March 26, 2011, when his eighth-seeded Butler team beat second-seeded Florida in overtime to advance to the Final Four for the second consecutive season.
“Pulling up [to the arena] was great, just walking into the hallway was great,” Stevens said. “The memories are hard to forget, thankfully. Those were great moments.”
Stevens said the last time he saw a Final Four game in person was in New Orleans. It was 2012, the one year his Bulldogs didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.
And that year, Kentucky, led by star forward Anthony Davis, rolled to the national championship, capping off a 38-2 season. Davis, then a freshman, received the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award.
“We sat there and we watched Anthony Davis and it was like, ‘Oh my goodness. If there’s an obvious impact guy in the NBA, it’s him, because he just impacts the game so many ways,’ ” Stevens said.
Davis was drafted No. 1 overall by the Pelicans that summer.
He went for career highs of 40 points and 21 rebounds in Sunday night’s win.
Working way back
Guard Avery Bradley came off the bench for the second straight game as he works his way back after missing 13 games with a sprained right ankle.
Stevens said Bradley would likely return to the starting lineup Monday in Dallas against the Mavericks.
Bradley started the first 43 games of the season before suffering an ankle injury against the Heat in mid-January.
He had 12 points in 28 minutes.
As it’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend in a city that is fond of celebrating most any occasion, there has been plenty of green and shamrocks in the streets.
“There was a lot of green roaming the streets by our hotel, that’s for sure,” said Stevens.
New Orleans coach Monty Williams attended Notre Dame, so he has enjoyed the scenery. “I do enjoy seeing everybody dressed in green,” Williams said, adding, “except on this day, when we play the Celtics.”
Dressed for it
The Celtics wore their St. Patrick’s Day sleeved uniforms for the second straight game. They’ll wear them for the third and final time against the Mavericks . . . Stevens confirmed that starting point guard Rajon Rondo won’t play against Dallas, as he again will sit out of the second of a back-to-back set to rest his surgically repaired right knee . . . Each time former Celtic Greg Stiemsma scored for the Pelicans, the arena played a steamboat horn, a fitting sound for a player whose nickname is “The Steamer.”