|Brandon Miller now has the difficult task of replacing Brad Stevens at Butler. (wishtv.com)|
Brad Stevens was going to be at Butler for a long time. That's what everyone thought.
Rumors said maybe he would replace Coach K at Duke. But the NBA? That wasn't on anyone's radar but Stevens.
Butler will no longer have its baby-faced head coach, but he left the program in better shape than it had ever been. Back-to-back national championship game appearances, top-10 national rankings, NBA prospects and national attention that rivaled in-state opponent Indiana the past five years. Most importantly, Stevens proved the two title games were not a fluke as the Bulldogs have remained relevant several years after.
Now Butler must move forward without Stevens. It had to happen some time, and at least the transition is coming when the Butler name resonates strongly. The university made its first smart move in continuing success by hiring former Butler player and assistant coach (since April) Brandon Miller.
No one has a crystal ball. Maybe he won't bring the knowledge, communication skills and charisma that Stevens did, but he knows the program as well as anyone, and that is important for building on Stevens' success. Butler was not going to land a major, established name because as strong as Stevens built the program, Butler is still a mid-major team.
Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier has faith in Miller, saying in a statement, "As a player, assistant coach, and person, Brandon has exemplified the Butler Way and brings a blend of energy, talent and integrity to this role. With Brandon's leadership, Butler is well positioned to expand upon the success of the last few years."
Miller knows firsthand what it takes to win at a small program. He was a senior on the 2003 Bulldogs team that advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time since the school's first-ever tournament appearance 41 years earlier. Since then, Miller was an assistant coach for a season at Butler in 2007, while also learning as an assistant for Thad Matta at Ohio State (a former Butler coach) and John Groce at Illinois last season.
As important as the hire was the timing. August begins a busy recruiting period, and with Butler moving to the Big East this year, the Bulldogs couldn't afford entering recruitment without being able to tell players who would lead them. Now the program has a coach who can walk into a recruit's home and talk about the benefits of Butler from personal experience.
Miller has giant shoes to fill left by Stevens and a heavy weight on his shoulders to continue this run of success. We will have to wait before determining if the hire was a success, but for now giving the keys to the Butler car to someone who knows and understands the program from a player and coach's prospective was the right move.
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