The Birth of a Dynasty?
The Butler Bulldogs seem to have made the transition from perennial tournament team to legitimate Final Four contender. Two amazing seasons is hardly an adequate sample size, but Brad Stevens has taken the program to levels that Todd Lickliter couldn’t. Can Butler do what Duke did nearly 30 years ago and go from a nobody to a national power?
The biggest variable is head coach Brad Stevens. Don’t let his youthful appearance fool you, Brad Stevens is savvy beyond his years. Stevens has implemented a system, and it works. The Bulldogs embrace that they aren’t the most talented or athletic team, but they will lock you down and bomb threes for 40 minutes.
Stevens will once again become a hot commodity after the tournament, but we seem to forget he signed a long contract extension after last years tournament. Right now the consensus is that the Indiana job is the only one enticing enough to lure Stevens away from Indianapolis. Stevens will have to decide if he wants to be the man forever associated with Butler basketball, or be just another guy who coached at a power conference school. It was an easy choice for Don Haskins and Mark Few, and Stevens seems to be cut from a similar cloth.
Assuming Stevens stays at Butler for the long haul, how will he maintain the success. Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky don’t make Final Four’s every year, but they have reached a level where just getting to the tournament in meaningless. Now that Butler has become a household name will Stevens get a better caliber of player?
When Gonzaga made the transition from ‘Cinderella’ to ‘program’ they recruited better but that hasn’t translated to Final Four’s. Since the elite eight run in 1999, Gonzaga has never been past the sweet sixteen. The 2005 team that featured Adam Morrison was considered their best, but they collapsed against UCLA in a memorable sweet sixteen game.
If Butler starts to get a better caliber of athlete will they change their style of play? Gonzaga changed their style of play, and they now resemble a middle of the road power conference team. Mike Krzyzewski makes his athletes fit his system rather than the other way around. Stevens strikes me as the kind of coach that will never deviate from the Butler style. My gut tells me Stevens is up for the challenge of turning Butler into a dynasty, but he could always be enticed by greener pastures.