INDIANAPOLIS – For a couple of years now, everyone in college basketball has not just sung the praises of Butler men’s basketball coach Brad Stevens, but shouted them from atop Hinkle Fieldhouse. Now the recently turned 36-year-old coach has the challenge of his young career facing him, as he tries to lead the Bulldog program into the unchartered – yet treacherous – waters of a much more difficult league.
“I don’t feel 36,” Stevens said. “I feel a lot older.”
Facing a schedule that includes a pair of games against Xavier, one versus Marquette, road trips to Northwestern and Vanderbilt, an in-state battle with Evansville, a re-match with national power Gonzaga, plus dealing with the Atlantic 10 programs (rated as the seventh toughest league last season) can make a young (looking) coach weary.
Oh yeah, Butler also has to play the top-ranked team in the country (Indiana).
None the less, if there is a coach that can overcome these types of challenges, it is probably Stevens according to one of his better players.
“He’s an unbelievable coach,” Bulldog guard Rotnei Clarke said.
Clarke spent his first three seasons playing at Arkansas, but when a coaching change precipitated a move on his part, he did his research into a number of programs, and what he discovered about Stevens – which had nothing to do with basketball – impressed him enough to pack up and move far away from his Oklahoma home.
“First and foremost, he’s an unbelievable person,” Clarke said. “That’s what attracted me here was the type of person that he is.”
Stevens has won more games (139) over the initial five seasons of his career than any coach in NCAA history (he also owns the four- and three-year records, as well).
The numbers and achievements that the Butler program have garnered since Stevens took over are mind-numbing, but Clarke said there are no secrets to the success of Stevens.
“He’s everything that he’s advertised to be,” Clarke said.
But as Clarke indicated, what attracts recruits to the Butler program is not necessarily the gaudy numbers, though consecutive trips to the national championship game doesn’t hurt, and it certainly isn’t the fanciest of facilities. It is the personal approach of Stevens and the impact that he has on his players’ lives away from the sport.
“The thing that attracted me here,” Clarke explained, “they may not have the best facilities, the best locker rooms, the best weight room, it’s about winning here. It’s about doing the right things and the ‘Butler Way.’ That really attracted me. We’ve got great guys here that really get along. They are great teammates and that is the most important thing.”