BROOKLYN — On April 5, 2010, a young(er) Brad Stevens couldn’t slay the giant when his Butler Bulldogs lost in the NCAA championship game to Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils.
But if there was a silver lining to Stevens’ meeting with the legendary Coach K, it manifested itself Thursday night.
That’s when Stevens’ Boston Celtics selected Duke forward Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Tatum popped up on Boston’s radar after it surprisingly traded the No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, giving the 19-year-old just days to get acquainted with the C’s should they wind up taking him in the draft.
So, who else to point Tatum in Boston’s direction than Coach K, whose respect for Stevens goes back to that tightly contested 2010 title game?
“Coach K talked to me — we talked a lot during this process, but I think it was like right after they traded the pick,” Tatum explained in a press conference at Barclays Center after being drafted. “He called me and talked about that Boston wanted me to come up there for a workout.
“He was just ranting about how great of a person Brad Stevens is — that Coach K would love the opportunity if they would pick me, and he really wanted me to go up there and work out for them. I was all for it. It worked out. I had a great time up there on my visit, and obviously they enjoyed me.”
Tatum worked out in Boston on Monday, the same day the Celtics announced they had traded for the No. 3 pick, and it appears Krzyzewski played a direct role in the versatile swingman connecting with the C’s so quickly.
Of course, Coach K’s matchmaking was far from the only reason why Danny Ainge and Co. drafted Tatum. But it’s worth noting that Kansas’ Josh Jackson, whom the Celtics also considered, reportedly didn’t work out for Boston at all ahead of the draft and ended up falling to the Phoenix Suns at No. 4.
In short: It helps to have one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time serve as your middle man. Turns out Tatum benefited from playing under Coach K, too, even if it was only for one season.
“Duke was a great time for me,” Tatum said. “There’s so many things that I learned, especially from Coach K. I think just his passion and the confidence he gave me throughout Duke and how much he believed in me as a player, and when somebody like that believes in you, then it takes your game to a new level.”
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images
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