TOM DAVIS: ‘The Butler Way’ never graduates – or leaves

Butler forward Kelan Martin, left, reacts after making the game winning basket during overtime of a game against Ohio State in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Butler guard Aaron Thompson, left, shoots over Ohio State guard C.J. Jackson during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Ohio State forward Jae'Sean Tate, center, drives to the basket past Butler guard Kamar Baldwin, right, and guard Aaron Thompson, bottom, during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Ohio State guard C.J. Jackson, right, dribbles past Butler guard Kamar Baldwin during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Butler guard Kamar Baldwin, right, shoots a three point basket over Ohio State guard C.J. Jackson during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Ohio State guard C.J. Jackson, center, shoots over Butler guard Henry Baddley, left, and Butler center Nate Fowler, right, during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Ohio State forward Keith Bates-Diop, right, shoots over Butler forward Kelan Martin during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Butler guard Kamar Baldwin, top, scores against Ohio State during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Butler guard Kamar Baldwin, left, drives to the basket past Ohio State guard Kam Williams during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)
Ohio State guard C.J. Jackson, left, shoots over Butler guard Kamar Baldwin, center, and center Nate Fowler, right, during the second half of a game in the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. Sunday. (By The Associated Press)

A guy can buy a lot with $1.1 million.

He can buy fancy cars, a big swimming pool, a sweet “man cave,” even a hellacious saltwater aquarium. But what he can’t buy with $1.1 million is “The Butler Way.”

That, my friends, isn’t for sale, and once you allow it out of your grasp, you’ll more than likely never find it again.

Chris Holtmann knew that prior to Sunday, but just in case he had any doubts, it got re-emphasized over the course of a couple of hours on a basketball court in Portland, Ore.

An under-manned Butler squad rallied from 15 points down over the final 3:46 in its game with Ohio State to force overtime, and then capped that amazing feat by scoring with three seconds remaining to knock off the Buckeyes 67-66 in the PK80 Invitational.

Holtmann left Butler for Ohio State last June and has publicly spoken on having reservations about doing so despite the fact that he increased his annual salary by over $1 million, as well as getting the opportunity to run a program at a far more renowned university (as it relates to recruits) with much better facilities and budgets.

He knew that no coach walks out of Hinkle Fieldhouse for the final time and ever feels good about it.

Holtmann has spoken publicly about not wanting to play Butler and Sunday was a clear exhibit as to why.

He knew that no coach walks onto the floor to compete against the Bulldogs and ever feels good about it.

Holtmann grasps that no amount of money can purchase the fortitude and sense of team that runs through those within the Butler program, which allows days like Sunday to occur over and over.

If Holtmann was a bit nauseous in June, you can’t imagine how he feels today.

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The Bulldogs (5-2) did to the Buckeyes (5-2) what they often do, which is out-compete an opponent and win a game that they realistically had no shot at doing so given the circumstances.

Butler was missing starting forward Sean McDermott, who on this young and inept offensive team is its best – and often only – consistent perimeter shooter.

That wouldn’t matter and Holtmann knew it.

The Bulldogs were anemic offensively, as expected, as they made just 36 percent of their shots, including a horrible 19 percent from 3-point range.

That wouldn’t matter and Holtmann knew it.

Butler has shown this season that it can be a very un-Butler-like squad with its poor play in some areas, such as shooting and passing.

On Sunday, Ohio State outrebounded the Bulldogs 42-37, who also missed nine of their 20 free throw attempts. In addition, Butler isn’t sharing the ball as well as it has in the past and totaled just eight assists on 25 makes.

But that wouldn’t matter and Holtmann knew it.

Holtmann knew what he was doing last June. He was choosing the basketball version of Ginger over Mary Ann, and make no mistake about it; there will be days that it appears to be a smart choice (including every other Friday).

But on Sunday, it didn’t look so wise, and that is because what “The Butler Way” is founded on is an unfathomable level of toughness, which this size-challenged, skill-challenged, but definitely not testosterone-lacking group put on display, and it is a very, very rare commodity that can’t be bought.

Yes, Ohio State outrebounded the Bulldogs, but Butler grabbed double the number of offensive rebounds (14 to 7).

That is an effort statistic.

Yes, Butler didn’t pass the ball as well as it should have (a recurring theme this season as assists on makes have dropped from 50 percent from year ago to just over 44 percent this year), but Jordan’s team made 11 steals.

That is an effort statistic.

And when it came to taking care of the ball?

Ohio State threw it away an unreal 24 times, in comparison to Butler’s 14.

As Ohio State pushed the ball up the court in the waning seconds Sunday, Holtmann and his staff were screaming for a timeout, but Buckeye guard C.J. Jackson either didn’t know to listen to the coaches or didn’t listen to them. In either event, the entire game it became more and more evident that when it comes to effort, as well as intellect, “The Butler Way” never graduates OR leaves for a more lucrative position.

And Holtmann knows that better than anyone.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.

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