America was first introduced to the Butler Bulldogs when they made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2003. In 2007 they made it back to the Sweet 16, turning more heads.
In 2008 they won one tournament game under first-year coach Brad Stevens.
Two years later America fell in love with that 30-something year old guy wearing glasses when he brought his Bulldogs to the National Championship Game at home in Indianapolis where they lost to Duke on Gordon Hayward’s near-historical missed half court shot.
If that wasn’t good enough, he brought his boys back to the NCG the following year, and Blue II officially became “America’s Dog.”
Butler had become one of the premiere mid-majors, and Brad Stevens was the face of that program.
Through his first six seasons of being an NCAA D-I coach, Stevens sat on 166 wins, the most of any coach ever in that same time frame.
On Monday, Butler joined the new Big East Conference, and Butler and Stevens were possibly on their way to becoming a household name among the big dogs.
That changed on Wednesday evening when Butler students received a press release in an email from Butler President Jim Danko, stating that Brad Stevens will become the new head coach of the Boston Celtics.
As the news spreads all over the sports world, a number of questions arise in the minds of not only Bulldog fans, but Celtic fans, too.
Celtic fans will want to know how this young guy will work out in “the big show.” How will this unassuming guy from Indiana deal with the egos of NBA players? Will we have to deal with a re-building period, or will Stevens keep us an elite NBA team?
Bulldog fans are asking:
Why, why, why?
Is this real life?
Do they even use real coaches in the NBA?
Bulldog fans are upset, and have every reason to be. But they shouldn’t be angry and vengeful towards Stevens. After all, he gave them all their glory. And, how many 36-year-olds would turn down a giant paycheck (6 years, $22 million) that Boston was able to flash his way?
Bulldog fans will also be wondering about the future of their program. Will incoming freshmen Nolan Berry, Rene Castro and Andrew Chrabascz stick around with the Bulldogs? And more importantly, will it affect the decisions of 2014 recruits Trey Lyles (ESPN Top 100 #4, Indianapolis) and Trevon Bluiett (ESPN Top 100 #41, Indianapolis)?
Stevens was obviously a huge draw for recruits, but Bulldog fans can only hope that he wasn’t the only draw. After all, there are still two Final Four banners in the Hinkle rafters, the program’s home which is undergoing a $34 million dollar renovation over the next two years.
While Bulldog fans – and players, for that matter – sit and sulk on their hero’s departure, remembering Indianapolis in 2010, Houston in 2011, Maui last November, Banker’s Life Field House in December, and the thrilling Gonzaga buzzer beater in January, they’ll soon realize that they can’t be mad at Brad.
He helped give them all of these moments and memories. He put Butler on the map. He is one of the most beloved men in Indiana basketball history — and that is saying something. After the shock leaves, and a new coach is found, those fans will be ready to get inside Hinkle, sing the Butler War Song, and start a completely new chapter when they welcome Villanova on New Year’s Eve for their Big East opener.
As for coaching candidates, don’t expect former assistant Matthew Graves to take the job. According to multiple sources, Graves has already said he intends to remain the head coach at South Alabama, a job he took in March. One of his assistants is 2012 Butler graduate Ronald Nored, and it is unlikely he will be a candidate.
A tough reality for Bulldog fans is that they may go outside of the “Butler Bubble,” but that might not be a terrible thing. While the Bulldogs usually pull from assistants (Stevens had been with the Bulldogs for seven years before getting the gig in 2007), it would be a good move for Danko and AD Barry Collier to at least take a look around outside of Butler connections, so BU fans shouldn’t be too worried when that happens.
As for Stevens himself, according to ESPN’s Andy Katz, many college coaches around the country have “unbelievable faith” that Stevens will succeed in Beantown.
College success doesn’t necessarily translate into NBA success, but if he can take a team like Butler and put them where they’re at now, he likely won’t have much trouble getting the Celtics back to prominence (after trading Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry on Draft night). New England will just have to give him time.