Long before training camp, practice at the Auerbach Center, way before he was learning Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ offense while gearing up for one final preseason matchup against the Brooklyn Nets Friday, a teenaged Jeff Teague was roaming through campus at Butler University.
Stevens, the head coach of the Butler Bulldogs at the time, had eyes for the young prospect over a decade ago when Teague visited the campus as a sophomore in high school. Earlier this week, Brad revealed his long history with Teague on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand.
Stevens was asked to explain why Celtics Radio play-by-play announcer Sean Grande referred to Teague as Stevens’ “White Whale” during Tuesday’s 108-99 preseason loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Brad Stevens On Recruiting Jeff Teague: ‘If You Go By Those Standards, I’ve Got A Lot Of “White Whales” Out There’
“If you go by those standards, I’ve got a lot of “White Whales” out there because we lost a lot of guys in recruiting but he certainly was a guy who I recruited,” Stevens said. “I’ll never forget when we were walking through campus, I’ve told Jeff (Teague) this story. His dad, Shawn, played at Boston (University) – he transferred to Boston U. from Missouri and we got into that discussion.”
Butler, at the time, was on the up-and-up but far from an NCAA powerhouse. This was long before 2010 when Stevens guided the Bulldogs to the Final Four, and nearly captured a national title.
“Jeff was walking through campus with us, he was a sophomore, it was early in his sophomore year,” Stevens said. “He goes, and “Can you believe my dad decided to leave a big school to play at a smaller school?” We kept walking and I turned to my boss and said, ‘We can end this one early. Let’s all go home for dinner because this is not happening.’”
Stevens laughed with the two radio hosts before Brad offered some perspective.
“The best thing you can hear in recruiting is “Yes,” the second-best is “No” quickly,” Stevens explained. “The worst thing you can do is to be strung along all the way until the end and finish second. And so, it was good. I appreciated him being honest.
“I don’t think he realized how honest he was being at that moment, but I appreciated it because I could move on to what’s next.”
Jeff Teague On Meeting Brad Stevens: ‘He Actually Changed My Whole Life’
For Teague, that day was life-changing, even if it didn’t pan out exactly the way Stevens had hoped. The two shared an important conversation after seeing one of Teague’s recent report cards; he spoke recently to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.
“I knew Brad since high school, he actually changed my whole life, basically… because I had a path that I wasn’t really focused on school as much,” Teague said, via NBC Sports Boston. “I played basketball, obviously, but school wasn’t my favorite thing to do. So, he pulled me into a room at Butler as a sophomore in front of my dad and he basically showed him my grades. I had been hiding report cards for some years.
“And basically just told me, ‘If you want the opportunity to play college ball, you have to bring your grades up’ and my dad not seeing my grades for a couple of years, he was pretty mad about that.”
Since then, Teague would always embrace Stevens whenever the two crossed paths in the NBA. And to Brad’s credit; the advice he offered Teague didn’t come before Jeff’s revealing opinion about his father’s decision to leave a big program to play at a smaller school.
“That was after that,” Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub. “I knew he wasn’t coming,” Stevens laughed.