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Andrew Smith: Gone but never forgotten

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Former Butler Bulldogs center and Brad Stevens pupil, Andrew Smith, passed away on Tuesday after a courageous, two-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and, eventually, leukekmia. He was just 25 years old.

His wife, Samantha, posted the news on Twitter this morning saying, "Andrew peacefully passed away in his sleep and in my arms as I told him I loved him this morning. Love you always, Smith."

Having known him since he was at least a freshman at Butler, Stevens and Smith became very close over the years. Stevens would visit Smith frequently back home in Indiana and did so as recently as last Thursday when he took a short leave of absence from the Celtics to see his former player for what would be the final time.

Stevens spoke with a very heavy heart during tonight's pre-game interviews but had nothing but the best to say about Smith, per Celtics.com:

"I was happy that I got a chance to say goodbye," Stevens said as he struggled to hold back tears. "This is really about, when you coach somebody, you get a lot more out of coaching them than they do from you."

Stevens has raved about Smith, both as a player and as a person, every time he's had the opportunity to do so through a public forum. He continued that trend tonight.

"He got tough as a player. He was a really good player, (he found) the niche, and became one of the more high-achieving guys that I got a chance to coach from where he started," the coach said. "But the last two years, he's been through a lot. He just never gave in."

Stevens also stated, "I could go on and on and it wouldn't do him justice. He was special. He was tough. He set a great example."

Fewer things can be more powerful than the relationship a player and coach can share, and that rings true in any sport. But Stevens and Smith were a unique pair. It was more than just basketball between the two of them which is why the bond they shared seemed to be so natural and genuine.

With that being said, on behalf of CelticsBlog and the wonderful group of writers we have here, I would like to express our most sincere condolences to both the Smith and Stevens families as well as anyone else effected by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Rest in the sweetest peace, Andrew.