The Boston Celtics traveled to the United Center to take on the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, but due to unfortunate circumstances, Brad Stevens was not on the sideline to coach the team.
Assistant coach Jay Larranaga filled in as Stevens missed the game to be with one of his former Butler Bulldogs players.
Stevens coached the Bulldogs from 2007 to 2013, taking Butler to back-to-back national championship games. As the coach of a college team, he helped young men develop on and off the court. And he created bonds with players that go beyond a four-year relationship.
On Thursday, Stevens missed the first regular-season game of his Celtics career to be with a former player, Andrew Smith, who has cancer. According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, the 25-year-old Smith—who spent four years playing for Stevens at Butler—has been dealing with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Sadly, Smith is not doing so well right now, leading his wife to take to Twitter to ask for prayers:
Samantha Smith @Samantha44Smith
Please pray. Pray so very hard. We need a miracle & Andrew asked me to have you all rally with us in prayer in this moment.1/6/2016, 7:02:32 PM
With one of his former players dealing with something bigger than basketball, Stevens realized being with Smith was more important than Thursday night's game against the Bulls. And so the Celtics coach made the trip to Indiana to be there for Smith.
For Stevens, this probably wasn't even a hard decision. There are just some things in life that take priority over a game, even if you are getting paid to be with the team. This is one of those things.
Hopefully Smith begins to see some positive signs and sees his health improve.
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