It's still a business trip, he cautions. There is still a game to play against a very good team.

But returning to Indiana will also be special for Brad Stevens. It will always be home.

Stevens was back in the Hoosier state Tuesday, prepping his Celtics for 7 p.m. date with the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers.

And despite the rigors of his NBA schedule, Stevens' former team, the Butler Bulldogs, have never strayed too far from his mind. He says he watched nearly every Butler game this season. Unless the Celtics played on the same night, he says, he was watching.

"It's been a tough run, obviously, it's been a tough run," Stevens said of the Bulldogs. "But that can all be forgotten in one week."

Butler finished the regular season 14-16 and 4-14 in their first season in the Big East, but won their final two games by a combined 50 points. Next up for the Bulldogs: A Big East Tournament opener against Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Perhaps the silver lining amid the Bulldogs' disappointing first run through the Big East: It's March, and the Bulldogs are unquestionably playing their best basketball in months.

Over the past five seasons, Butler is 22-5 in games played in the month of March.

Stevens, obviously, had a lot to do with that.

"The good thing about Butler is they can win any game," Stevens said. "They've proven that throughout the course of this year. I'm very hopeful they have a great week in Madison Square and write another chapter."

Tuesday will mark the second time Stevens has returned to Indiana to face the Pacers this season. Upon his first return, back in December, he and wife Tracy asked their two children where they wanted to spend the afternoon.

Their choice?

Hinkle Fieldhouse.

"It's always nice to be back," Stevens said.

Stevens added that he keeps in regular contact with Butler coach Brandon Miller and most of the players. He said he heard from junior point guard Alex Barlow as recently as yesterday. Barlow texted Stevens after the Bulldogs arrived at Madison Square Garden. He said he also heard from Butler's graduating seniors, Khyle Marshall and Erik Fromm, after their senior day on Saturday.

"The way they've handled it, the way that Brandon has handled it, is really great," Stevens said. "To see them finishing the way they did, that's great. Obviously, anytime you lose a couple of close games early in the league that can go both ways. If you win those, do you start to feel good about yourself and win a couple more? If you lose those, now it seems like you're always climbing uphill.

"Nobody roots harder for them when they're 10-2 and nobody is going to be more sure to be watching when they tip off when they've lost a few straight."