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

Curran: Patriots are likely to finish unbeaten this season

Curran: Patriots are likely to finish unbeaten this season

FOXBORO -- Resistance is futile. 

You see this team out there scampering around from drill to drill on a cloudy, late-July day, not a lollygagger to be seen, everything moving with military precision, and you know what it looks like? 

It looks like 80-something players and a coaching staff starting NFL training camp. 

What is it really? It's the first day of work for the NFL's greatest dynasty as it embarks on what will likely be a historic campaign. 

Never mind "may." Never mind "has a chance." It is LIKELY the Patriots will be the first team to ever win 19 games in a single NFL season. 

They don't want to hear that and are already dousing the thought of perfection by labeling it stupid, ridiculous, or disrespectful.

Between now and the start of the season, a parade of indignant former players, coaches and executives will snort and chortle at how absurd the conversation is. 

Frankly, they don't know what the hell they're talking about. 

That won't stop all of them from scoffing at the prospect of 19-0 the same way Curtis Strange scoffed at Tiger Woods back in 1996 when Woods said coming in "second sucks and third is worse." You'll learn, Strange said. 

Strange learned. Everybody learned. Maybe the experts should have seen it coming with Tiger. Maybe not. 

But with the 2017 Patriots, a failing to see what's likely to happen means willfully ignoring facts to do it. The Patriots went 17-2 last year. They lost to Buffalo because their third-string quarterback's thumb was dangling. They lost to Seattle on a night they handed the ball to the Seahawks repeatedly and still were at the Seattle 1-yard line with 30 seconds left with a chance to send the game to overtime but came away with nothing. 
They played poorly in the AFC Divisional Playoff against Houston and won by 18. They played "meh" against the Steelers in the AFC Championship and led 33-9 after three quarters. (Don't "But Le'Veon Bell" me. Would Le'Veon Bell have been covering Chris Hogan? No? Okay. Pay attention). 

In the Super Bowl, they spotted Atlanta -- a team being favorably compared to the Greatest Show on Turf Rams -- 25 points, and they wiped out that 25-point deficit in 23 minutes of play. 

Since they walked off the field in Houston, they added a Pro Bowl corner named Stephon Gilmore to play opposite their other Pro Bowl corner, Malcolm Butler. They added a wide receiver named Brandin Cooks, who caught 162 passes the past two seasons for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns. And they will also unveil once again the best tight end of his generation, Rob Gronkowski. 

They have a head coach who is definitely the best of the free agency era, probably the best of the Super Bowl era and arguably the best of all time. Their quarterback has even fewer qualifiers around his greatness and legacy. 

The crème de la crème of the rest of the league is sludge. Smug Aaron Rodgers is tethered to the moon-faced buffoon in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy, a head coach who could overcomplicate ordering coffee. In Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger is fat and fresh off an offseason spent contemplating retirement and Ring Dings. The Cowboys' maturity issues start with their 70-something owner and cascade right down to their enabled superstars Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant. Denver? Trevor Simien. Atlanta? Their motto this year is "Embrace the Suck." What does that even mean? That they enjoyed the Red Wedding that was the second half of the Super Bowl so much, they just want to roll around in humiliation for another year? Dear God. 

My point with all that is that there is no Peyton Manning out there to be the Frazier to Brady's Ali. And while there may be a coach out there with gray matter who could battle Belichick, that coach hasn't spent 18 seasons collecting assistants and coordinators and creating a program where they can tell a player to shit in the corner and the player asks, "What color?"

Don't fight it. Don't scoff at it. Don't be like those people who, in 2001 and 2002 were still saying Tom Brady was a product of the system and that the Patriots would rue the day they traded Drew Bledsoe within the division. Open your eyes. Think critically. What do you see. 

David Harris: Once the Patriots showed interest, his decision was made


David Harris: Once the Patriots showed interest, his decision was made

FOXBORO -- David Harris has been used to doing things one way for a decade as a member of the New York Jets. But when he walked onto the field for his first day of training camp practice in New England, thus began a foray into a whole new world for the 33-year-old linebacker. 

"I don't think I've ever seen this many fans for a training camp practice," Harris said with a smile on Thursday. 

The differences between life as a Jet and life as a Patriot don't end there, of course. You won't catch Harris putting down his former club -- he says he harbors no resentment toward the Jets for how their split came about during the offseason -- but he readily acknowledges the benefits of being in Foxboro. 

It's all about football, he explained. And that's a good thing, because he doesn't have any time for much else right now after arriving to the club following spring workouts. 

He's cramming.

"I told some guys I feel like a transfer student, coming in late and pretty much hit the ground running," he said. "I have to spend more time in the playbook at night and in the morning and with the coachces to get me up to speed. That's expected for a new guy, and I'm no different."

Harris has been eager to learn how the Patriots do things well before he arrived in town. After he was released, he said he heard from multiple teams, but there was one call he received that ended the decision-making process. 

"There were a couple inquiries," he said, "but once the Pats came, I already knew what time it was."

Now comes the work, which isn't limited to learning the Xs and Os of the Patriots scheme. 

"The hardest thing is to pick up the playbook and learning teammates names and putting names to faces," he said. "I played against them for 10 years . . . but the guy behind the facemask, that's the main thing I'm trying to focus on right now."

Harris made up a group of off-the-ball linebackers during Thursday's session that included Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts. Dont'a Hightower remains on the physically unable to perform list for now, but how Harris might impact Hightower's game will be one storyline to watch once they're able to share the field.