With Stevens out, assistant coach Jay Larranaga will serve as the head coach. "(It’s a) difficult situation for Coach Stevens and people close to him, obviously," Larranaga said before Thursday’s game. "So we told him, ‘Don’t worry about what’s going on here. We’ll try and keep the ship going straight.’"
It is no surprise to Larranaga that Stevens would skip a game to visit a former player who appears to be in desperate need of support. Despite all the pressures and demands of being an NBA head coach, Stevens has always preached to the Celtics that there are things in life more important than basketball.
"He makes it very clear to our players on a day-to-day basis that family is the most important," Larranaga said. "The things they’re able to do away from the court … are so much more important than what happens on the court."
Smith, 25, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in January 2014. He was readmitted to the hospital in December after he failed a bone marrow transplant and learned his cancer was no longer lymphoma but leukemia. Samantha shared the news in a Dec. 7 blog post:
Andrew’s disease has become extremely aggressive. It has transformed from a lymphoma into leukemia; this means it is no longer a targeted mass that we can treat, it is now running through the veins of his entire body in his blood. I won’t mince words; this is very, very bad news. We are worried. We are scared. We are devastated. At this point, the transplant has failed. Essentially, this vicious disease has chewed up and spit out every single drug and treatment we have tried in the past two years like it was nothing. So, we potentially have one final treatment option left and that is a clinical study. We don’t know why this is happening and why this battle never seems to end for us, but we so deeply, deeply appreciate the outpour of love and prayers covering us. Please continue to lift Andrew up in your prayers. We need a massive army behind us storming the gates of Heaven and praying for each and every step we make in the days to come.
If you’re inclined, Andrew Smith and his family could use every possible prayer and good thought. Here’s to hoping he and Samantha are able to share more moments like this in the future: