As the Celtics finished their grueling six-game road trip with a 110-98 loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, coach Brad Stevens received praise back in Boston from a man who is familiar with his considerable challenge.
Rick Pitino compiled a 102-146 record as head coach of the Celtics from 1997 to 2001. On Wednesday he guided Louisville to an 81-72 win over Boston College at Conte Forum, and afterward he was asked about Stevens.
“It’s tough,” Pitino said. “When I took over, they won 14 or 15 games. He’s taken over the same type situation, except he has a lot of patience and I had very little.”
Pitino came to admire Stevens at Butler, which is just 125 miles north of Louisville in that college basketball-crazed region. He was so impressed, in fact, that he even suggested Stevens as his eventual successor.
“Way before he came [to Boston], I said to my AD and my staff, ‘When I retire, go after that guy. Whatever it costs, get that guy,’ ” Pitino said. “He’s going to do a fabulous job because it doesn’t get to him — the losing. He understands the journey. He’s going to do a great job.”
Pitino added that Stevens and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge have their franchise on the right path.
“They play competitive,” he said. “They’ll get better and better. [Stevens] is a terrific defensive coach, even though his offenses are great. Danny knows exactly what to do. He knows what to do. They got, I think, one of the top three coaches at any level. He was always tremendous.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach