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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / December 16.
  • Brad Stevens Fights Back Tears Discussing the Passing of Andrew Smith

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    NEW YORK — On the same day that Andrew Smith passed away from cancer, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens fought back tears discussing the player he coached at Butler.

    Stevens traveled to Indiana on Thursday to visit with Smith and missed the team’s loss to the Chicago Bulls.

    “I was happy that I got a chance to say goodbye,” Stevens, who fought back tears while addressing a throng of reporters, said at Madison Square Garden before the Celtics met the Knicks. “And this is really about when you coach somebody, you get a lot more out of coaching them than they do from you. So, that’s that. I could go on and on and it wouldn’t do him justice. He was special, he was tough, he set a great example…”

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    Smith, 25, played center in the Bulldogs’ two national championship game appearances when Stevens was at Butler. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in January 2014 and was readmitted to the hospital amid a two-year battle with cancer, according to The Indianapolis Star.

    His wife, Samantha, Tweeted that Andrew passed away Tuesday morning.

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    Stevens has called Smith the toughest guy he ever met.

    “He got tough as a player, he was a really good player, found a niche and became one of the more high-achieveing guys that I got a chance to coach from where he started,” Stevens said before nearly breaking down. “But the last two years he’s been through a lot and he never gave in.”

    He was asked if would be able to attend the funeral.

    “Yeah, I’ll get a chance to go back and we’ll figure out how to get in and out but I’m glad I got a chance to go back last week, and I”m really appreciative of the Celtics and the ownership for letting me do that,” he said.

    Stevens didn’t field a single question about the Knicks or the game.

    “I think at the end of the day I’m going to go out and do my job and do it as well as I can,” he said.

    After Stevens’ comments became public, Curt Smith, Andrew’s father, Tweeted:

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    Earlier Tuesday, before Smith’s passing became public, current Butler coach Chris Holtmann was a guest on The 4 Quarters Podcast.

    “I would just encourage people if they’d like to follow Samantha’s blog and check in with that and please continue to keep the entire family in your thoughts and prayers,” Holtmann said. “It’s just really sad, there’s no other way to look at it. Andrew’s a terrific kid and person and was obviously an outstanding player.

    “To see someone at the very peak of his life stricken with this, it’s tragic and it’s sad. We continue to support and love and think about Andrew and Samantha and their entire family every day. They’re in our thoughts every day as a program.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.