Step Right Up For the Brad Stevens Sweepstakes

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2010

Forget the Coach K to the New Jersey Nets rumors (seriously, how cool would it be to watch Krzyzewski turn down increasingly ridiculous offers…  $15M: nah.  $25M: no way.  $50M: sure I’ll think about it.  $100M: ok, but only if you throw in something for Collins and Wojo.), the hottest coaching commodity that we’ve seen in a great number of years is none other than Butler’s 33-year old wunderkind, Brad Stevens.  Everyone in college basketball circles would love to be in his position right now, with a limitless number of suitors and a potential preseason top-five team returning in 2010-11.  If you’re Stevens and you decide to leave, you can ask your new employer for the moon; if you’re him and you decide to stay, you can ask your current employer for Venus.  No matter what his final decision will be, he can make demands that few ADs, Barry Collier included, can afford to turn down. 

The Butler Money Man (Indy Star/R. Scheer)

Given that environment, there are currently three open positions with enough name recognition, cash and prestige to lure Stevens away from his home state of Indiana.  Let’s break down each of those situations plus a fourth alternative of staying at Butler for a while longer. 

Oregon.  Oregon has made no bones about its desire to get a big name to replace Ernie Kent this year.  Tom Izzo and Tubby Smith have already reportedly turned down the Ducks and Phil Knight’s mattress stuffed with cash, but both of those guys are old-timers (relatively speaking) who have climbed the mountaintop before.  Stevens is 33 years old and makes a good living at Butler (~$400k annually), but he has two young children and when you’re facing the prospect of generational wealth as he would at UO (~$2-3M), it clouds the somewhat feel-good picture of staying at Butler for the ‘fit.’

  • Pluses: Obviously, money and top-rate facilities in the form of the brand-new Matthew Knight Arena (opening Winter 2010-11) and the adjoining practice facility.  A commitment to basketball through Phil Knight’s largesse.  A down Pac-10 will make for an easier ascendency to the top in the next two seasons.  Oregon loves its Ducks — strong statewide support.  Did we mention the money? — five mediocre years there and he’s still sitting on a huge bankroll. 
  • Minuses:  In its heart of hearts, Oregon is a football school.  Recruiting to Eugene isn’t easy outside of the Pacific Northwest, and an Indiana guy would probably be out of his element there.  He’s looking at a rebuilding situation next season — the Ducks will not be very good for a while.  Oregon basketball feels more like a stepping-stone appointment rather than a destination one.  It rains an awful lot there.

Can Knight Shovel Enough Dough Stevens' Way?

Wake Forest.  With today’s firing of Dino Gaudio after three seasons and two NCAA trips, it’s clear that Demon Deacon AD Ron Wellman has bigger things in mind.  The school has a small but passionate fanbase that would hire the Easter Bunny if they thought he could beat Duke and Carolina on a regular basis.  Wake has money to spend, but there’s no bottomless pot of (black and) gold of which Wellman can draw from like Oregon.  Still, the ACC is still the most prestigious basketball league in America, and Wake is a prime situation for the right coach.

  • Pluses:  Tobacco Road: few places in the country match the commitment and passion of the fans in this part of the country about college basketball.  Stevens would find a similar situation to what he left in Indiana.  There is enough talent in the Carolinas and Atlanta to support another top twenty program in this area on talent alone — Wake could provide the platform for Stevens to make that leap and pay him handsomely for the privilege.  Like Butler, Wake is a small, private university with a commitment to academics, so he wouldn’t be making a huge change in comfort level.
  • Minuses:  Tobacco Road: did we mention that three of the last six champions and two Hall of Fame coaches reside about 80 miles down the road in Durham and Chapel Hill?  Many a coach has come to NC State and Wake Forest with high hopes only to learn that harsh reality the hard way.  Getting wins in the ACC won’t be as easy a proposition as it was in the Horizon League.  Butler is a low pressure job, but Wake demands a lot from its coaches — perhaps more than can reasonably be expected.

Clemson.  We’re still reeling from the fact that Oliver Purnell left this job after three straight NCAA appearances to join one of the worst BCS programs in America in a city where the local high school coaches wield all the power.  Either he was in trouble there behind the scenes, felt completely unappreciated after four straight twenty-win seasons or he was lured by all the dollars that DePaul threw his way.  Probably the latter.  Would Stevens want to join one of the few football-centric schools in the ACC just so he could become an ACC coach? 

  • Pluses:  Clemson brass has shown a greater commitment to basketball in recent years, paying Purnell $1.6M annually despite never having gotten past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  There is a wealth of talent in South Carolina and Georgia, and Clemson is a name-brand school around those parts.  If anyone ever got that program beyond the first weekend of the NCAAs consistently, it wouldn’t be difficult to envision CU as a powerhouse in that region.
  • Minuses:  Upon last check, Clemson is still a wannabe big-time football school who also plays basketball — fans would take a BCS win over a Final Four there without thinking twice.  Oliver Purnell just left this now-NCAA regular program for… DePaul, the worst program in the Big East?  Is that a joke?  Even though Clemson is well removed from Tobacco Road, the spectre of those two schools is always present — recruiting against them and playing against them on an annual basis is taxing to even the best coaches — ask former top Tiger, Rick Barnes.

Will Stevens Leave This?

Butler.  And then there’s the most logical destination, which is to say no destination at all: Stevens just stays where he is.  There’s no doubt that he’s going to get a healthy raise from the school — after all, he just led them to a tick from the national title in his third season.  The money probably cannot compete with the above three schools, but the bigger question is whether Stevens truly believes that he can build Butler into the Gonzaga (or better) of the East?  What does he aspire to do someday?  If he thinks he can consistently field a national power in Indianapolis, then he should probably stay there.  However, if he’s concerned about the level of talent he can get after his three stars (especially Hayward) take off for greener pastures, then he should probably leave.  Looking at it objectively, though, a lot of things broke just right for Butler to make the title game this year.  They’re a great team, don’t get us wrong, but they also caught a few breaks along the way.  As good as Hayward/Howard/Mack are, does anyone believe they’re going to be back in the national championship game again next year?  The difficult truth is that Stevens may have already reached his pinnacle at that school (keep in mind Mark Few has only been to an Elite Eight at Gonzaga, and that was eleven years ago). 

  • Pluses:  Clearly, familiarity and comfort.  He’s an Indiana kid with family nearby.  He’s not had to make a major move in his coaching career yet.  The pressure will be on to make another Final Four, but it won’t be the kind of pressure that he would experience at any of the other three above schools.  He’s already a deity there, and expectations will not be as great.  Plus, racking up wins in the Horizon League is a lot easier than in the ACC or even the Pac-10.
  • Minuses:  The money thing.  Butler can pay him, but he won’t join the top echelon of coaches in pay for a while, if ever.  The danger that they never get back to this spot — how will that impact his career if Butler is upset early next year and the year after that?  Playing with the target on their back.  They’re used to it in the HL, but how about nationally?  Recruiting — we still wonder just how easy it is to recruit to a mid-major school in Indiana without top-notch facilities (Hinkle is great, but it’s lacking in some areas). 
rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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12 responses to “Step Right Up For the Brad Stevens Sweepstakes”

  1. Andrew M says:

    Holy crap! Wake fired Gaudio? That’s the first I read of it… That’s dumber than BC firing Skinner. That ACC pressure does weird things to ADs…

    As for Stevens, I hope he stays and builds at Butler, but if I were him I’d probably bolt for all the cash that Nike can throw at him…

  2. rb says:

    Great analysis. Hard to pass up the money. My prediction is Oregon.

  3. Brian says:

    I’ll be shocked if Stevens leaves Butler. He know what he has next year and will look to build on it. Plus, if money is a concern, he will get a nice raise from Butler.

  4. To assuage your complaints about the Eug, I present the following points:

    Oregon’s only a football school because the football team is good right now. The fans here are equal-opportunity supporters.

    Ernie Kent did a fantastic job recruiting out of the Midwest while he was here. Dunigan, et al, are all from the Chicago area.

    Rebuilding should go a lot quicker without Tajuan Porter jacking up threes early in the shot clock and not being able to play defense.

    The job at Oregon isn’t going to be a step-up job if there’s more than $2 million per year on the table. There’s not many schools that can compete with that.

    I was wearing shorts today and threw a hippie disk around for hours outside. The weather doesn’t always suck.

    Also, you omitted the Pit Crew from the pros. We’re loud, we’re proud, and we’re better than the basketball team.

  5. rtmsf says:

    Good thoughts, all. You need to be selling them to Stevens, though, not me. :)

  6. DashKid says:

    Oregon is not a real basketball school. Its a wannabe. If you want to play with the big boys then come down to Wake Forest.

  7. WakeStudent says:

    The only thing better about Oregon relative to Wake is the money, and Wake has some big name donors to that might step-up to the plate after a couple of years of success. If Stevens goes anywhere, I think he should come to Wake, but if I were him I’d probably stay put.

  8. WhoDat? says:

    Quite a few things missing from the article.

    First, reports are already surfacing (even last night) that Stevens has turned down the Orgegon job. Not saying it’s true, but it’s worth considering. Besides, how does a midwest guy recruit to Oregon?

    More importatnly, Butler president Bobby Fong has been quoted saying that the university is willing to offer a base salary of $1 million, which is 2.5x what he currently makes. With all of his incentives and bonuses from this year he’s hauling in $750,000, so getting a similar run next year means he’s looking at $1.3-$1.4 million.

    Not too shabby.

    I fully expect to see an announcement of a long-term deal with a $1 million base and a number of pay escalators to come forth within the next couple days.

    The only other job that really makes sense is the Wake job given the culture of the university, but seeing a coach go 60-30 there and being ousted after three seasons sets a BAD precedent. They’re also not going to be paying significantly more than Butler. Maybe $1.5 million base? It’s a nice bump, but $1 million per year in Indianapolis is anything but chump change. His wife already quit her job as partner in whatever law firm she was working for (think easy six-figure plus) to stay at home with their two kids. If money was that important, she’d still be working, or Brad wouldn’t have left Lilly in the first place.

    All signs point to him staying…I’d be absolutely shocked if he left Butler after this year. Assuming Hayward stays, Butler is going to be significantly better next year. Khyle Marshall provides a real scoring threat to replace strong-willed but physically lacking (in height) Willie Veasley, and guard Chrishawn Hopkins is a high-major athlete with a high-major outside shot, regardless of what ESPN rankings tell you. I watched him play against Pike and Marquis Teague and he very much looked like the better prospect between the two. That guy is an absolute stud and will be provide tons of scoring potential off the bench. 6-11 Smith should improve nicely this summer after being slowed before last year with a fractured food, and will be a great backup for Howard. Even Fromm is no slouch. He was better than Purdue’s Bade when they matched up and is a good stretch PF with range all the way to the 3-point line; he even has some nice post moves.

    Butler probably won’t get back to the national championship game not because they won’t be good enough, but because it’s damn hard to do. Every team that gets to the Final Four gets a few breaks along the way, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t great teams and it doesn’t mean they didn’t deserve it. It’s the teams that can take advantage of those opportunities that make it that far. Give them some credit for that.

    Oh, and as far as competing for national talent, how’s this?

    You’ll also find Butler’s name atteched to 2012 point guard Yogi Ferrell (offers from Purdue, Indiana, Notre Dame, Virginia, Ohio State, etc). I wouldn’t say Butler is leading for him, but they’re still certainly in the mix.

  9. Jeff says:

    He’s got a (former) top 10 basketball school just down the road. He should wait for Crean to get fired and move to IU if he wants to stay in the midwest and still coach a top flight school.

  10. jamadeacs says:

    Opportunities like this don’t happen every season…when everything gets aligned. Being a Deacon fan, I hope Wake and bring him to Winston-Salem…think it would be be best fit. Would be a lot harder in the ACC bumping heads with UNC, Duke, and just about every other team…it is a grind! I like Stevens because his kids never quit…if he instilled that work ethic & passion and never giving up spirit with the ACC talent he would land, he could do very well!

  11. Tyus says:

    0% – Wake Forest
    0% – Clemson
    0% – Oregon
    100% – Butler

    The second Butler said theyd go 1million, this ended

  12. John allenfoote says:

    Wake has been beating Duke and UNC at home (Winston, NC) for years. What if Wake says they will go to 2 million?

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