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?
Stevens will never have to worry about money again.
Spotlight doesnt get much brighter than tonight. Or last year.
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 CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33