Tears were shed and hearts were broken.
Yes, this is going to take some to get over.
On Wednesday, the 36-year-old Stevens stunned the city of Indianapolis by leaving the tiny school he led to back-to-back national runner-up finishes to take the Celtics job. The news hit hardest inside historic Hinkle Fieldhouse where, just two days earlier, players, coaches and administrators were celebrating their official entry into the re-formed Big East.
“When all the guys came in, we really didn’t know what the meeting was about,” Bulldogs forward Khyle Marshall explained in a hushed tone. “Me, personally, I cried a lot because we’ve been through so much together. Me, personally, I took it very hard, and so did a lot of other guys.”
Stevens did not attend the news hastily called news conference.
For years, the departure of Stevens seemed preordained.
Rumors swirled each offseason about some other job that would land him more money, a bigger recruiting budget or put him on a bigger stage to showcase his coaching talent. Each time, Stevens said no. So when the latest rumors, after UCLA hired Hoosiers native son Steve Alford in March, the Bulldogs figured they had again avoided losing Stevens.
They were wrong.
Collier said the Celtics never contacted him about talking to Stevens and that he didn’t realize anything was different from the previous job overtures until Stevens walked into his office Wednesday morning.
Stevens‘ decision caught everybody off guard.
On Monday, he seemed so inclined to stay that when asked about the large banner hanging outside Hinkle touting the conference move, he said: “All I see is a Bulldog.”
On Wednesday, the same man who left his job as a marketing analyst at Eli Lilly to take a volunteer coaching job on Thad Matta’s Butler staff in the summer of 2000, suddenly had an offer he couldn’t refuse.
It has forced the Bulldogs to quickly find a new coach, much to Marshall’s chagrin.