New Coach, Same Story: The Butler Way Persists

Photo Credit: ButlerSports.com

Elijah Brown, Photo Credit: John Fetcho, ButlerSports.com

Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics.

Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith graduated.

Roosevelt Jones, one of the team’s top returning players, went down with a season-ending wrist injury in the team’s very first pre-season game in Australia.

To top it all off, Brandon Miller (’03) was called upon to fill the void left by a legend and to lead the Bulldogs in their first season in the highly-regarded Big East Conference, without any prior head coaching experience.

Butler was doomed, right?

Wrong. Alright, I understand that it is only six games into the 2013-2014 season, but the Bulldogs have competed well against some tough opponents (Vanderbilt, Washington State, #5 Oklahoma State) and currently sit at 5-1 before their third-place tilt in the Old Spice Classic with the 4-2 LSU Tigers.

Prior to the season, Athletic Director, Barry Collier, and the players stressed the importance of hiring a “Butler guy” to take over the head coaching position after Coach Stevens left for Boston. Why? To preserve the Butler Way, and who was better for the job than former Butler point guard, Brandon Miller?

In his time with the Bulldogs, Miller was an integral component of putting Butler on the so-called “college basketball map.” In his first season (his sophomore season since he played at Southwest Missouri State as a freshman) with the Dawgs, he led them to their first NCAA tournament victory in almost 40 years. In his senior season, he led the team to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1962 after upsetting #5 Mississippi State and #4 Louisville. For his career, he averaged 11.6 points and 3.1 assists per game for the Dawgs, but more impressively, he was a member of the conference’s All-Academic team each year. He knew the importance of the term “student-athlete” at Butler University. In short, he embraced the Butler Way–both on and off the court.

butlerway

Humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness are the five characteristics that make up the foundation of the Butler Way, and through six games, this is a perfect representation of this team. Coming into the season, the media talked more about who was not coming back for Butler this season than who was going to be here. They completely discredited the current roster and doubted the ability of a first-time head coach in the Big East.

Well, through six games, six players are averaging at least 5.5 points per game. From what I have seen so far, it appears that in any given game, a new player is capable of stepping up on offense–a staple of Butler teams over the years. Don’t get me wrong, though, the team does have some offensive superstars, Kellen Dunham (17.3 PPG)/Khyle Marshall (16.8 PPG), that will help shoulder a lot of the scoring load this season. Some of the freshmen, namely Andrew Chrabascz and Elijah Brown, will play key roles as well. By the end of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if 10 guys played significant minutes each game.

Thus, it appears to be a typical Butler roster. Will this team set scoring records? Nope. Will they produce NBA lottery picks like Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State? Probably not. Will they win games? You bet they will. The players know their roles. When they signed on to play at Butler, they knew a “recipe for success” was already in place, and it was their job to follow the instructions. Their job to embrace the Butler Way like countless players had done before them.

Let’s take a closer look at the Oklahoma State game…

CBS Sports college basketball insider, Jon Rothstein, took notice of the Bulldogs performance against #5 Oklahoma State, and this is what he had to say:

You’re right, Mr. Rothstein. you can’t discount the Dawgs. In the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, these Dawgs were ranked ninth. Ninth. Out of ten teams. Yet, with wins over Vanderbilt, and Washington State, and a heart-breaking, nail-biting loss to Oklahoma State, it looks like they might have slightly underestimated Butler. What a surprise, right?

I will be honest. Though it will be considered a “good loss” and one that the team can build on for the rest of the season, it was still especially tough. I have witnessed two NCAA Finals losses firsthand, but this one burned deep. Down by one, with two free throws and a little over eight seconds left, the Dawgs had a chance to, at the very least, tie the game with one possession left. Unfortunately, senior leader, Khyle Marshall, missed both shots and the team lost.

The team lost. Sure, Marshall had a golden opportunity to give the Dawgs a chance at an early-season signature win, but the team would not have even been playing in this game without his 30-point performance against Washington State in the game prior. Roosevelt Jones may not be able to contribute on the court this season, but his leadership from the bench and in the locker room cannot be overlooked. The following tweet is a perfect example of what to expect from Jones this season:

Finally, former Butler point guard and current assistant coach of the Maine Red Claws (the D-League affiliate of the Boston Celtics), Ronald Nored, summed it all up perfectly in just four words:

In short, don’t discount the Dawgs this season.

Until next time…

Joe

For more Butler and St. Louis Cardinals updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page.

Related Articles:

Advertisements

“Brad Being Brad”: Stevens and the Celtics Down the Heat

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Seven games into his NBA career, Brad Stevens is proving he belongs. Sure, it is an extremely small sample size, but the Celtics have been competitive in every single game this season.

Franchise cornerstones, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, were shipped to Brooklyn over the off-season. Rajon Rondo, easily the Celtics best player, is still unavailable–recovering from an ACL tear he suffered in January of last season. Last night’s starting lineup? Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and rookie center, Kelly Olynyk. Sure, they are all NBA players, but they are not All-Stars by any means.

This should be a big problem for first-time NBA coach, Brad Stevens, right?

Wrong, and here’s why.

Coach Stevens never had the most talented group at Butler, with the exception of Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard. Yet, he was able to guide a team, who many picked to lose in the first round, to back-to-back NCAA championship games in 2010 and 2011.

Why? Team basketball centered on defensefundamentals, and taking good shots. This is exactly what his Celtics are doing right now. The season started off slow for Stevens–losing his first four games as an NBA head coach–a losing streak he never experienced while coaching at Butler. The 0-4 start led to various writers and fans discussing the Celtics “tanking”–in hopes of getting the first overall pick in the draft and taking current Kansas Jayhawk, Andrew Wiggins.

However, Stevens was not listening, and he has led the Celtics to three wins in a row–including a jaw-dropping, buzzer-beating win last night over the defending champs, Miami Heat. At 3-4, the Celtics are seventh in the Eastern Conference. Yeah, I understand there are 75 games left in the regular season, but as long as they can hang around until Rondo comes back, they have a good shot at making the playoffs–what would be a huge success for Stevens given the expectations around Boston coming into the season.

The Celtics are 26th in the league in points scored per game with 92.7. This is to be expected given their lack of scoring fire power on the roster. However, they are 7th best in the NBA in points allowed with teams scoring just 95.1 points per game against them. As the season goes along, his players will keep buying to buy into his system, and both the offense and the defense will get better.

Revisiting Last Night’s Win Against the Heat:

After Dwyane Wade’s boneheaded miscue at the free throw line, Boston had 0.6 seconds left–down 110 to 108. After the timeout, the ball was moved up past half-court for the in-bounds play–putting the Celtics in perfect position to get a chance to tie or even win the game.

Courtesy of the Boston Globe, here is a quote from Stevens regarding the last-second play, “I had that play written down, but I have never run it before. I have run some variations of it but by then, you are free-styling it a little bit because you don’t know who will be in the game.”

As we all can remember from Butler, Stevens was an in-bounds play genius, and this play was no different. Set up the game-winning shot to go to the player being guarded by the best defender in the league, LeBron James? No problem. A perfectly placed, off-ball back screen freed Jeff Green up just enough to get up his shot before the buzzer. A beautiful play, a beautiful pass, a beautiful shot, and a beautiful result.

Celtics 111Heat 110

Stevens’ response to buzzer-beater?

image (4)

A typical “Brad Being Brad” expression. It resembled his reaction after Roosevelt Jones’ buzzer-beater against #8 Gonzaga in Hinkle Fieldhouse last season.

Regarding the win against the Heat (also courtesy of the Boston Globe), “It’s one win. I hate to say it like that, but it’s one win.”

You’re right, Coach Stevens. It is just “one win”, but it is a signature win, and it even has Boston’s biggest fan/critic on board:

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Boston Celtics Hire Brad Stevens, Ronald Nored; Hope to Sign Gordon Hayward?

Photo Credit: Associated Press/Mark J.

Photo Credit: Associated Press/Mark J.

Boston Celtics Rebuilding Process

By NBA standards, the Celtics were old last season. When star point guard, Rajon Rondo, went down with a torn ACL, most fans in Boston realized that it was time. It was time to move forward and start the rebuilding process of one of the most storied NBA franchises ever.

Long-time Celtics, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, were either going to retire or needed to be traded in hopes of bringing in a haul of draft picks to help with the rebuilding process. That is exactly what the Celtics did, but let’s break it down, step-by-step, to see exactly what happened in Boston this summer.

Rebuilding Step #1:

After Doc Rivers was sent to Los Angeles to coach the Clippers in exchange for a first-round draft pick, the Boston Celtics officially started “rebuild mode.” Well, on July 3rd, Danny Ainge implemented step one of the rebuilding process by hiring one of the most successful college coaches, Brad Stevens out of Butler University. Stevens, a fresh face in the NBA, hopes to bring his strong basketball IQ to Boston and have a much more successful NBA career than his predecessors, Rick Pitino and John Calipari.

11-time NBA champion head coach, Phil Jackson, took to Twitter to speak his mind on the signing by Ainge, and here is what he had to say:

philjackson

Thus, the Celtics got their man as head coach, but that was just step one of many moves that needed to be made this off-season.

Rebuilding Step #2:

On June 18th, Drew Cannon, while watching the NBA playoffs, posted the following tweet:

cannon

Little did he know that less than a month later, he would be employed by Boston Celtics.

On July 9th, it was announced that Cannon was following Coach Stevens and joining the Celtics staff. This past season, Cannon, just 23 years old, sat on the bench for the Butler Bulldogs. Before the game, during the game, and after the game, Cannon used mathematical equations and analyzed numbers to help break down what was happening on the court for the Bulldogs.

According to Stevens, Cannon was an “invaluable resource” for Butler–using in-depth research to help with starting lineups and player substitutions throughout the game. This season, Cannon will be doing much of the same, but it will be on a much bigger stage.

Rebuilding Step #3:

On July 12th, the Celtics officially completed the blockbuster trade that sent Garnett, Pierce, Jason Terry, and DJ White to the Brooklyn Nets. In exchange, the Celtics received five players, three first-round draft picks (2014, 2016, 2018), the right to swap first-round picks in 2017, and a trade exception worth nearly $10 million.

Thus, the roster underwent a drastic overhaul with MarShon Brooks being the most important player coming to the Celtics. The reason for the trade was to get younger, clear salary, and get draft picks for the team to utilize in the future.

Rebuilding Step #4:

A little over two weeks after the trade, it was made official that Coach Stevens was adding another Butler person to his Celtics staff. This person was one of his prized recruits in 2008. This person was the team’s point guard and best defender while at Butler, and he played an integral role in helping the Bulldogs reach back-to-back National title games.

This person, by now you already know, is Ronald Nored. Stevens will use Nored in the player development role for the Celtics. One of his main responsibilities will be developing players on the Celtics NBA Development League team, the Maine Red Claws.

Thus, if you include the hiring of Micah Shrewsberry, Coach Stevens has now surrounded himself with three Butler assistants. Four Butler guys in Boston is nice and all, but why not add one more to the mix next summer as well? The Celtics just may have that opportunity next July when a budding NBA star officially becomes a free agent.

Thus…

Rebuilding Step #5?

In 2010, the Utah Jazz drafted Gordon Hayward with the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft. At the time, he was primarily known for this last second shot against the Duke Blue Devils in the 2010 NCAA Tournament title game.

What most NBA fans did not know was that he was actually a highly skilled small forward with the capability of scoring from all areas on the court. Also, given his 6’8″ athletic frame, he is fully capable of guarding just about anybody–from shooting guards all the way up to power forwards.

Used primarily as the team’s sixth man in his rookie season, Hayward averaged just 5.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. However, he has played a more integral role over the past two seasons–averaging around 30 minutes per game. Last year was Hayward’s best year yet–averaging 14.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game.

If you still are not convinced by Hayward’s ability at the NBA level, you may find it helpful to watch these highlights of his 22-point game against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers from a couple seasons ago.

Well, Hayward is in the final year of his rookie contract with the Utah Jazz. Thus, his future with the team is unclear. Based on what the front office has said about him, it is obvious that they want to bring him back to Utah via a long-term contract. However, based on the moves being made in Boston this summer, this may be just a little bit more difficult than they originally would have thought.

Coach Stevens is considered one of the most influential figures in Hayward’s basketball career, and Nored was in his same recruiting class in 2008. Thus, will these two hires by the Celtics be enough to convince Hayward to leave Utah for Boston? This is still to be determined, but the Celtics are definitely making all the right moves at this point.

Concluding Thoughts:

Even if Hayward chooses to stay in Utah or signs with a team not named the Celtics, it is still nice to see that Stevens is surrounding himself with Butler people. Nored and Cannon will not only help Stevens be successful as the Boston head coach, but they will also help expand the Butler University brand as well.

In an 82-game season plus pre-season and possibly playoffs, I bet that announcers and analysts will bring up Butler, their NCAA Tournament runs, and the proverbial “Butler Way” thousands of times, if not more.

Thus, as I wrote in my previous Butler article, Coach Stevens gave so much to the University from 2000 through June 2013. Based on the man that he is, it is only fitting for him to continue helping Butler, even when he is exactly 950 miles away.

Stevens was able to get two banners raised in his time as head coach at Butler (shown below). Let’s hope he can go one step further and get one of the champions variety–the 18th NBA Championship for the Boston Celtics.

Photo Credit: Paul Swaney

Photo Credit: Paul Swaney

Go Dawgs!

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe

Thank You, Brad Stevens

20130703-235307.jpg
Photo Credit: NY Daily News

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

20130704-073844.jpg
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Until next time…

Joe Schwarz (@stlCupOfJoe)
Butler University
Pharmacy Class of 2015