Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens broke down several times at his pregame news conference at Madison Square Garden as he spoke of Andrew Smith, the former Butler player who died Tuesday at age 25 after a two-year battle with cancer.
Stevens coached Smith for four seasons at Butler, which included two appearances in national championship games. He went back to Indiana to visit with Smith and his family last week, and said he plans to go to the funeral.
“Yeah, the week’s been tough. I was happy that I got a chance to say goodbye,” Stevens said. “And this is really about when you coach someone, I mean, you get a lot more out of coaching them than they do for you. I could go on and on but it wouldn’t do him justice. He was special. He was tough. He set a great example.”
Stevens was informed of Smith’s death several hours before the tipoff of Tuesday night’s Celtics-Knicks game. He then tweeted that Smith was “the toughest guy I ever met.”
“The last two years. He’s been through a lot,” Stevens told reporters before the game. “He never gave in.”