Celtics coach Brad Stevens misses Bulls game to visit ill former player

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Flickr | Bradjward

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens missed Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bulls for a very heartbreaking reason.

The former Butler Bulldogs head coach left the game to visit cancer-stricken former Butler center Andrew Smith.

Smith was on the Bulldogs team during their two runs to back-to-back NCAA National Championship games. He has been battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma since January of 2014, and was scheduled to undergo a bone marrow transplant Thursday.

In Indiana, basketball is more of a way of life than a sport for Hoosiers. But some things are bigger than a game. And Stevens proved that with his classy move. 

"Stevens traveled to Indiana to visit a former Butler University player of his and will miss tonight’s game against the Chicago Bulls. We ask that the private nature of this visit be respected," the Celtics posted on their website Thursday evening. 

Earlier this week, Smith's wife tweeted the former Butler star needed prayers. 

"Please pray. Pray so very hard. We need a miracle & Andrew asked me to have you all rally with us in prayer in this moment," she said via her Twitter page. 

According to several reports, Stevens often stresses the importance of family with his players. So when a former team member needed his support, he didn't hesitate to step back from his coaching duties, and fulfill his duties as a friend. 

The groundswell of support started to build on social media, and many members of the Butler community got into the mix using the hashtag #AndrewSmithStrong. 

Because afterall, as they say at that small school in Indianapolis, that's just the Butler Way.