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Al Horford – Brad Stevens, more than 15 years of a key relationship with the Celtics

March 23, 2007. Reigning university champions, the Florida Gators must battle against the Butler Bulldogs in the regional semi-final. But end by winning by eight points with their strong men, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horfordwho are preparing to take charge of the big league.

On the opposite bench that day, a certain Brad Stevens, then an assistant with the Bulldogs. This is the very first time that the latter crosses paths with the one he considers to be the Gators' best player, Al Horford, author of 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks in the match in question.

Two weeks after this confrontation, the assistant was promoted to head coach of his team, while the Florida interior went to the NBA, drafted in 3rd position by the Hawks. The future Atlanta All-Star still keeps an eye on what happens next at Butler.

Targeted in 2016 by the Celtics

He did well because under the aegis of Stevens, the team based in Indianapolis reached the university final twice (2010 and 2011). “ Very strong teams. Their game is tough, the execution of the attack is impeccable, it is very difficult to prepare against them. Stevens had found a way to get the most out of each of his players. That's what impressed me the most about him. », remarks the interior, in a long article from ESPN on their relationship.

This toughness appealed so well that Stevens managed to be recruited as head coach of an NBA team, without any assistant experience in the big league beforehand, with the Celtics in 2013. Three years later, while the Greens were looking to recruit Kevin Durant, another target is targeted by the club and Stevens: Al Horford.

After his good seasons in Atlanta, the interior commits for four years and 113 million dollars. He is then the most expensively recruited free agent in the history of the Celtics. After years of mutual admiration from a distance, the two men finally come together.

There is no doubt that when you play against certain players and you observe the impact they have on the pitch through their play, but more importantly the way their teammates react, respond and play around them, you admire and hope that one day they can play for the Celtics. And he was definitely at the top of that list for me », Stevens does not hide.

Astonished assistants

This considers sharing points in common with the interior, particularly in the spirit of camaraderie. “ This concept of we're in this together, we share results and we're going to give our all for each other. Although it may sound cliché or cheesy, that's what it is. That's why he's so special », Qualifies the current president of the Green House.

The bond between the two men is so strong that after three years of joint collaboration in Boston, then the departure of Horford to the Sixers and the Thunder, the interior returns in 2022, when Brad Stevens joined the offices of the Celtics.

Even as he gets older, Al Horford maintains an internal work ethic. A student never satisfied with learning. “ Our assistants say all the time that they are absolutely amazed that Al is the one who wants to watch the videos to learn how to improve. He's 38, he doesn't need to do that. But that's his state of mind. If he can strive to improve, all of our 22-year-olds can strive to improve. This is an important message for the entire franchise », Judge Stevens.

His favorite Horford is the second player of all time to have played the most playoff games (183) without winning the title, behind Karl Malone (193). Two more victories against the Mavs and it will be ancient history for him. And the consecration for these two men who crossed their path 17 years ago.

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