I want to brief this post by saying I have been a fan of the Butler Bulldogs since 2001–the year my sister started pharmacy school there. I have remained an avid fan, and I am now in my 5th year of pharmacy school at Butler University, myself. Thus, I am not some national media member trying to make sense of the move. I am just writing about the coach that I have come to know over the years.
Thank you, Brad Stevens.
Thank you for leaving a high-paying position at Eli Lilly and Company to become a volunteer basketball assistant at Butler in 2000.
Thank you for leading the Bulldogs to an incredible 166-49 record during your 6-year tenure as head coach.
Thank you for always having a perfectly drawn-up inbounds play after a timeout. As a past player and a fan of the game being played the right way, it was an honor watching the magic you were able to come up with when it mattered most. It was truly a pleasure watching a basketball mastermind at work.
Thank you for leading all of us on two magical journeys through the NCAA Tournament to back-to-back Final Fours during my freshman and sophomore years at Butler.
Thank you for turning down job offer after job offer to remain at Butler over the past six years–from Oregon to Illinois to UCLA.
Lastly, on a more personal level, thank you, Brad, for sitting down with me freshman year–allowing me to interview you for over an hour on your coaching philosophy for a class I was merely taking as an elective.
Class, in every sense of the word, is what Brad stood for at Butler.
The day of the National Championship in Indianapolis, I had a class with one of the players, Zach Hahn, and where was he? He was in class–on the same day as the biggest game in Butler sports history.
Why? Because Butler players are at school to get a degree, not just to play basketball. Brad made sure players never forgot that.
Brad was much more than a basketball coach. He was the face of everything that Butler stands for–the face of the Butler Way.
Butler lost some tough games in his six years at Butler–including two national championships and most recently a heartbreaking round of 32 loss to Marquette. No matter the loss, no matter the call by the ref, Brad handled it with class. Sure, he may have been unhappy with numerous calls and had trouble dealing with losses, but he never disrespected the officials or the opponents.
Butler, now entering the Big East Conference, is probably in its best situation since it’s founding 158 years ago. Mr. Stevens is one of the main reasons for this.
Thus, I cannot be mad at Brad. He was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the head coach of one of the most storied NBA franchises ever, the Boston Celtics. Who in their right mind would pass up an opportunity like this?
Unfortunately, history is most definitely against Brad being successful in the NBA, but let’s be honest, when has that stopped him before? He led Butler to the National Championship two years in a row when most “experts” had them losing in the first round.
Top college coaches like Rick Pitino and John Calipari were unsuccessful in the NBA, but as someone who has followed Stevens closely the past four years, I am not doubting him. He may have a tough first season, but once he grooms his players to “buy in” to his system, the rest of the NBA better watch out.
As Butler great, Ronald Nored, said via Twitter, “I learned a long time ago, that whatever Brad Stevens says or does. Trust it.” Thus, I trust him, and I hope all other Butler fans will trust him as well.
After all, he did not leave for another school that he thought was better than Butler, he left for a dream job in the NBA. He is not turning his back on Butler, he is just taking the next step needed in his coaching career.
Thus, thank you, Brad, for everything you gave to Butler University. You will most definitely be missed.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Until next time…
Joe Schwarz (@stlCupOfJoe)
Pharmacy Class of 2015