Brad Stevens misses Celtics game to be with Andrew Smith

Stevens and Smith over a year ago.

Stevens and Smith on Feb. 2014.

Brad Stevens was not at the Boston Celtics game in Chicago Thursday night. He was somewhere far, far more important.

The former Butler men’s basketball coach was at the bedside of one of his former players, one of his friends. Andrew Smith, who is just 25 and was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, needs him. He needs all of us.

Smith is fighting something no one this young should even been concerned with: Cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was diagnosed in January, 2014.

The Convenant Christian High School product was gone back and forth into the hospital. In December, he was able to celebrate Christmas at home, and to quietly sit up in a suite at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with Samantha, his wife, to see his Butler Bulldogs beat Purdue 74-68 in the Crossroads Classic.

In life, family, relationships, and one’s character may be most important.

Instead of going on with his life in his third year as head coach of the Celtics, Stevens left the team to come to Indianapolis to do anything he could, and mostly to be there for Smith and his family.

“Coach — Thanks for visiting Andrew and the family today,” Smith’s dad, Curt, tweeted Thursday evening. “Means the world to the big guy, Sam, and us all. Truly a blessing.”

When the Celtics were in Indianapolis back in early November, one of the first things Stevens did was go visit Andrew. Stevens has a job to do, but understands life, people, and our care for one another is what matters. That’s just another game in Chicago. (The Celtics don’t play against until Sunday in Memphis.)

Smith is fighting for his life.

Stevens had a job to do but he put it aside to be with his friend. On the recruiting trail, coaches make all kinds of promises to player, such as that they will always be there for them. Stevens means it.

Meanwhile, Bob Knight, who’s 75 and retired, chose not to be there for his former players and skipped Tuesday’s ceremony in Bloomington to celebrate the last NCAA team to go undefeated — his 1976 Indiana Hoosiers team. That tells you a lot about the individual, their priorities, and their commitment.

Cancer sucks. It’s taken so many from us with no explanation. Let’s all think of Andrew, the fight he’s having in the ring right now with cancer, and how just being a good human being is what we all need to do.

[Photo via Samantha Smith]

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