Stevens goes from mid-major to major leagues

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If the Celtics were still a title threat, would Doc Rivers really have wanted out of his contract to go somewhere else? Would Ainge really have signed Stevens, respected as he may be in the coaching ranks, when Coach of the Year George Karl was available, as were Lionel Hollins and Vinny Del Negro after leading the Grizzlies and Clippers, respectively, to their best seasons ever?

Maybe so, given the changes to the coaching ranks lately.

Teams are willing to take chances on younger guys who haven’t gone from successful playing career to longtime assistant before proving they deserve an opportunity.

Erik Spoelstra was the model, working his way up from the Miami Heat’s video department to two-time NBA champion as coach. Indiana’s Frank Vogel is another young coach who got his shot when Bird hired the former advance scout, and Vogel had the Pacers within a game of the NBA Finals.

Stevens‘ success at Butler, where he won 77 percent of his games, did wonders for mid-majors. The NCAA tournament selection committee grew more willing to extend bids to smaller schools over mediocre ones from the power conferences after watching teams like the Bulldogs prove they could compete with any of them.

Now he can have a similar influence in the coaching ranks. If he shows there’s no difference in coaching at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse as there is at the new Boston Garden, that solid X’s and O’s work just as well in the Atlantic Division as in the Atlantic 10, other guys like him may start getting their shots.

They already are. Vogel was only 37 when the Pacers turned to him in 2011, so he knows Stevens can get it done.

“The Celtics got one heckuva basketball coach,” he said through the Pacers. “Congrats to Danny Ainge and Brad.”

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: _http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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