|Brad Stevens is putting together another great season with Butler. (espn.com)|
Brad Stevens has become a household name for college basketball fans, and as a young head coach, he has earned respect in the industry.
But Stevens isn't getting enough credit. He has the wow-look-what-he's-done-with-that-mid-major respect, but it's not enough. Stevens' name should be thrown in with the top 10-15 coaches in the business, and that's a whole new level of respect.
Butler and Stevens had a year to forget last year. The Bulldogs struggled to a 22-15 record after losing key player after key player. (The fact that 22 wins and a winning percentage over .500 is bad by Butler's standards shows what Stevens has done with this program.) And somehow that down year, which all teams go through, negated the fact that Stevens took his teams to back-to-back NCAA Title games. Not only two straight title games, which is impressive for any school, but the first two title games (and Final Fours) in Butler's history.
And this year? Butler is off to an 8-2 start, while taking down two of the great programs, and coaches, in college basketball. The Bulldogs crushed then No. 9 UNC in Maui 82-71 (the final score was not indicative of the game) and Saturday Butler took down No. 1 Indiana 88-86.
Butler may play in the A-10, and the Horizon League before that, but Stevens makes sure to put together a tough out-of-conference schedule. The Bulldogs have also already faced Marquette and Illinois in Maui, and will face Vanderbilt and Gonzaga in the next month. Stevens knows how to get his team to play well against the toughest competition, and Butler has become a terrifying team to schedule early in the year.
It's the nature of the business that Stevens may remain under-appreciated by the rest of the country while at a smaller school. But Stevens could soon be in the running for a few high-profile jobs that, if he continues to succeed, could catapult him into the ranks of one of the most praised and well-paid coaches in the nation.
The rumors have been going on for well over a year. Mike Krzyzewski will be retiring from Duke sometime in the near future, and Stevens' name has been tossed around as a possible replacement. But other schools have been in the rumor mix as well, and if Butler makes the NCAA Tournament again this year, Stevens should have plenty of suitors who come calling.
It's a shame that it will most likely take a high-profile job for Stevens to be viewed in the same light as today's elite coaches, but such is the nature of the business. Stevens will most likely move on to a powerhouse program and find success, finally earning the credit he has deserved for several years.
Until then, admire and don't forget about the young coach who led tiny Butler to the brink of college basketball's elite championship fraternity and completely changed the way we think about seeing Butler on our team's schedule.
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