Brad Stevens: Will he stay or will he go?


Brad Stevens: Will he stay or will he go?

By Rich Levine

Before tonights National Championship game, lets rev up the DeLorean to 88 MPH and take a quick trip to March Madness 2022:

To be honest, I don't know much about what the world is like.

I dont know if weve finally gotten our hands on some flying cars. Or warp zones. I dont know if we now understand the long-term effects of cell phone use andor 5-Hour Energy.

Will Coors Light ever stop making those fake press conference commercials? I have no idea.

Same goes for the NCAA tournament.

Eleven years from now, maybe the fields expanded to 256 teams (and thats just the play-in round) . . . Maybe 31-year-old Kalin Lucas is somehow still eligible at Michigan State . . . Maybe every win of John Caliparis careers has been stricken from the record . . . Maybe an 82-year-old Dick Vitale is still on TV screaming about the jump ball rule . . . Who knows?

But for all we dont know, theres one thing Im fairly sure of:

Brad Stevens wont be coaching at Butler.

At some point between now and then, Stevens will take a bigger and better offer from a bigger and better school and bail on the 12-year extension he signed after last season. Maybe hell replace Coach K at Duke, or Ben Howland at UCLA. Or maybe hell take over at Indiana, the team he grew up rooting for.

Eventually hell get that offer he cant refuse, his "dream job," and he wont look back.

Thats just always been my assumption. I think most people feel the same way.

Coaches like Brad Stevens dont stay at schools like Butler. They never have, and never will. Hed be insane to turn down those other schools, and theyd be insane to not make an offer.

After all, in his four years at Butler, Stevens has a record of 117-24. Over that time hes become the third-youngest coach to have a 30-win season. Last year, he broke the NCAA record for most wins in the first three years. He became the second-youngest head coach to make the National Championship. This year, at 34, he became the youngest coach to go to two Final Fours. He set the unofficial record for most awkward involvement in a post game mosh pit. He's got serious potential.

In the last two tournaments, Stevens has taken a lower seed with presumably less talent and beaten Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, Jamie Dixon, Bo Ryan and Billy Donovan. Despite his age, and unimposing presence, hes in complete control. Hes a little bit like Tiger Woods in the way he talks. Everythings casual, but completely calculated.

He gets his players. Im sure thats the age, but either way, hes got them figured out. Hell dance around in the locker room, throw around chest bumps after a big win, and at times you swear hes the student manager stealing a moment with the superstars. But all the while, Stevens maintains total respect. He gets it.

What else can you say? This guy just took Butler to back-to-back Final Fours, back-to-back championship games. He might even win a title. But win or lose, this isnt a fluke. It cant be. This is beyond Cinderella. Hes turned this into a real program.

And now . . .

I dont know.

Maybe this is the start of something real? Why does it stop here?

You have to wonder: Is there a chance he doesn't leave? Could he just go nuts and turn this into Duke Midwest?

After back-to-back Final Fours, and his reputation around the country, players will come to Butler. Parents will want their kids to come to Butler. Obviously, the Hoosiers are an unbelievable local draw, but youre nuts if you dont think Stevens will start making an impact on IU recruiting. The Hoosiers have history, but Stevens has reality. And, anyway, its not all about Indiana anymore. People will come, Brad.

Last week on TV, I saw that George Masons put up 32 new buildings since their Final Four trip in 2006; they generated 600 million of free advertising. Butlers now done it twice, and has a far more sustainable product. Win or lose tonight, the money will come in. Sponsorships will come in. People are going to want to be apart of thee Brad Stevens brand. Facilities will improve. Talent will improve. The team will keep winning.

And after winning, why else does a coach leave? I mean, once youve been to back-to-back Final Fours, what more can these other schools offer you?

More money?

Stevens will never have to worry about money again.

More recognition?

Spotlight doesnt get much brighter than tonight. Or last year.

More tradition?

I dont know. Would you rather spend the rest of your career living up to UCLA or Duke history, or being Butler history?

Why go to a place were they expectdemand things to be done their way, when you can make your own rules. Be your own tradition. Every program starts somewhere, right?

UCLA only had two winning seasons in the 15 years before John Wooden showed up. Duke had been to only one Final Four in the 20 years before Coach K came on. And no, Im not saying Stevens is John Wooden, just that not every storied college program has always been storied. It starts somewhere, with someone.

Is Brad Stevens that someone with Butler? Would he have signed that extension if at least a part of him didnt envision staying in the Horizon Conference through 2022?

Or is it just a matter of time before, hes accomplished all he can,' and that dream job offer comes by way of Indiana or Duke or UCLA, and he just "has to" accept?

Only time will tell.

But for now, I guess he just has to get through tonight.
Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Bruins admit they 'just weren't ready' to play Isles in shutout loss


Bruins admit they 'just weren't ready' to play Isles in shutout loss

BOSTON – The Bruins are starting to run out of adjectives and descriptors for these “no-show” performances on home ice.

The Bruins made it twice in two months that they’ve dropped a disappointing dud to one of the Eastern Conference’s worst teams when they came out flat, and never showed any signs of life in a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders. The lack of effort and pitiful results were particularly disappointing coming off a solid five game stretch where they’d engineered high effort wins over Florida, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

Patrice Bergeron finished a minus-3 on the afternoon, and said in quasi-disgust that he knew five minutes into the game that his team didn’t have “it” on Monday.

“Something that we talked [headed into Monday was] about building from the last few weeks, and how good it felt around the room, I guess, with winning games basically,” said Bergeron. “[The shutout loss] just shows that you have to show up every night and not take things for granted. I think we did [take things for granted] this afternoon.

“It was about finding someone to get us a shift to get us going basically. We had a few good shifts there, and we sustained a little bit of pressure there. But then we just couldn’t keep that for the next lines after going, we couldn’t sustain that or build from that. It was really the whole team throughout the lineup that didn’t show up and, you know, it’s obviously inexcusable, unacceptable.”

Claude Julien mentioned the compacted schedule and potential fatigue playing into the Bruins looking “flat” on Monday against the Islanders, and perhaps that is partially to blame for an uncharacteristically lifeless performance from the Black and Gold. But the B’s essentially did nothing for 60 minutes after not having played for 48 hours dating back to a Saturday afternoon matinee win over the Flyers, so the fatigue excuse is difficult to swallow.

Instead it looked like a Bruins team that thought they were going to roll out the pucks and beat the worst team in the Metro Division that had lost four-of-five games. Instead a defensive zone breakdown led to a Nikolay Kulemin goal midway through the second period, and the Bruins collapsed after that. Josh Bailey tucked a short side goal past a late-reacting Tuukka Rask for a soft serve special allowed by Boston’s ace goaltender, and Kulemin scored again in the second period once the Bruins began cheating at the offensive end of the ice.

To make matters worse, the Bruins showed zero fight or willingness to scratch and claw their way back into the game in the third period. Instead it looked like they quit on two points that could end up being extremely important at the end of the season.

It also looked like the Bruins weren’t ready to play, and that they overlooked the downtrodden Islanders for the second time in as many months.

“Maybe we took them a little lightly, but we just weren’t ready [to play],” said Brad Marchand. “We have to look ourselves in the mirror and all be a little bit better. We all have to be prepared for every game. You can’t look at the guy besides us and think he’s going to do the job. We have to take a little onus on ourselves and all be a little bit better. As a team, again, we have to play the system together and we have to back each other up. We have to play as one unit and we didn’t do that.”

It’s long past the point where the words even matter that the Bruins are uttering after games like Monday afternoon. Instead it’s about results and nothing else, and the B’s were nothing short of putrid in that category against the Islanders with points at a premium this time of year.