Send to KindleSo Butler basketball is finished, right?
The Bulldogs can’t possibly survive without the coach who led them to two national championship games and was a remarkable 117 games over .500 in six seasons. They might as well shutter Hinkle Fieldhouse and turn it into a museum.
Of course I’m being facetious. But a verbal slap in the face might be necessary to convince those who forecast doom in Indianapolis next season and beyond. Butler basketball will keep surviving – and thriving – with Brandon Miller at the helm.
I know very little about Miller other than what’s written in his biography. I’ve never met the man or spoken to him.
And it doesn’t matter, because Butler has built itself a basketball program, not just a team in a given year led by a certain coach.
Brad Stevens isn’t the first man to leave the Bulldogs, and he won’t be the last. Thad Matta needed just one season at Butler to convince other programs to come calling. He moved to Xavier for three seasons and then Ohio State, rolling up 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in 13 seasons. Todd Lickliter was 70 games over .500 at Butler from 2001-07 before jumping to Iowa. Stevens skipped a step and vaulted over a job in a major conference, going straight to the NBA and the Boston Celtics.
This type of progression sends a signal to other coaches, whether they be assistants at major programs or head coaches in smaller conferences – ‘You can win here. You can advance your career here. This isn’t a dead end job.’ And it’s exactly what they want to hear.
(Credit: Butler University Sports Information)
Miller inherits a program which is about to sink $34 million into Hinkle’s renovation, a tremendous investment into Butler’s facilities that will be complete at the beginning of the 2014-15 season. The Bulldogs moved from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 to the newly formed Big East over the past three seasons, bettering their level of competition along the way. They’ll also embark on a preseason tour of Australia, giving Miller extra practice time to incorporate his six incoming freshmen into the mix and install his offensive and defensive systems. His players won’t be as far behind the curve as you think.
Miller also won’t have to compete with any teams from his new conference while recruiting Butler’s home state. Five of the 2014 Rivals 150 reside in Indiana, and three of them still remain uncommitted. The Bulldogs are involved with two of those players, No. 5 Trey Lyles and No. 46 Trevon Bluiett.
It’s merely a continuation of the steady Hoosiers high school basketball pipeline – seven of the 2013 Rivals 150 and nine of the 2012 Rivals 150 were from Indiana, including Butler guard Kellen Dunham. His 9.5 points per game as a true freshman leave Bulldogs’ fans waiting excitedly to see how he’ll continue to develop his game in his sophomore season.
Yes, Stevens leaving is a blow to Butler’s program. It hurts the Big East from a brand name perspective – Stevens was instantly one of the league’s glamour coaches. And it’s a loss for all of college basketball to have such a brilliant and determined coaching mind leave its ranks. But it’s hardly the end for any of these entities. Far from it, in fact, if recent Butler history is any indication. Underestimate the Bulldogs’ bite at your own peril.
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