Wisch: Could Duke Be In Brad Stevens’ Future?

By Dave Wischnowsky–

We know where Brad Stevens has been (the 2010 national championship game). We know where he’s at right now (headed back to the Final Four). And we know where he might be next Monday night (cutting down the nets at Houston’s Reliant Stadium).

But what everyone seems to really want to know is where will the brains behind Butler University basketball be next season?

Well, smart money says that come this fall the hottest young coach in America not named Shaka Smart will probably be right where he has been since 2007 – patrolling the sidelines of Hinkle Fieldhouse as head coach of the Butler Bulldogs.

In part, that’s because after leading Butler to a national runner-up finish last spring, Stevens, 34, inked a 12-year contract extension that could keep him at the small Indianapolis school through 2022.

But anyone who thinks Stevens will still be coaching at Butler – and in the ho-hum Horizon League – when he celebrates his 45th birthday is more nuts than this year’s NCAA Tournament has been.

That’s just not gonna happen.

Because, rather than represent a true a promise to Butler, what Stevens’ long-term contract provides is a comfy security blanket and the time to be very patient in picking out the perfect spot to write the next chapter of what’s looking like a legendary coaching career.

Butler has long been a fine basketball school – and Stevens is making it a great one – but a coach with his obvious talents and intelligence deserves a bigger stage, better resources and brawnier conference than what Butler can deliver.

After this weekend, speculation will swirl wildly about whether Stevens might take an available job at a major-conference university – perhaps even in-state Purdue, if Matt Painter does indeed bolt for the rumored big bucks at Missouri.

And it is certainly possible that Stevens could land at a bigger school this offseason (although, I’d advise more patience). But, even if he does, I have a guess as to where Stevens may ultimately end up, several years from now.
And that’s at Duke, as the eventual replacement for Mike Krzyzewski. After all, someone has to follow the legend someday, you know.

Last spring, Coach K spoke highly of Butler’s precocious young coach throughout the Final Four weekend. And after Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils nipped Stevens’ Bulldogs 61-59 in one of the most exciting championship games in NCAA history, Coach K was asked what advice he would give Stevens when coaching offers from higher-profile schools started rolling in.

“Well, I think especially in this age of college basketball, you can be in the tournament and you can be really good and you don’t have to be like football in a BCS conference,” Krzyzeweski said. “I would tell him to stay put. They also should pay him more.”

Stevens ultimately listened. So did Butler. And Krzyzewski went on to say that by taking his team to college basketball’s pinnacle event, Stevens has a chance to do something special at Butler – which is precisely what he has done this season.

“He has the opportunity now and will always to coach at a place where he believes in the values and believes in the school,” Kryzezwski said, sounding as if he was talking about his own beloved Duke. “Butler will no longer be what it has been, which is pretty darn good. And everything that is good about Butler – which is many things – will be seen in many areas, not just basketball. It’s scary good.”

And so, too, is Stevens. He’s proven that this March.

Now, I don’t believe that the 64-year-old Krzyzewski – who’s closing in on Bob Knight’s all-time Division I wins record – will be looking to retire in the immediate future. But he will eventually, and when he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stevens succeed him.

Part of the reason for that is because Krzyzewski’s own coaching tree – which includes lackluster branches such as Johnny Dawkins, Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker and (eesh) Quin Snyder – offers no clear-cut, or truly impressive, heir apparent. But, beyond that, Stevens’ demeanor and smarts strike me as the type that Coach K would see fit for his hand-picked successor at Cameron Indoor.

During the 2010 Final Four, Stevens told reporters in Indianapolis that he read Krzyzewski’s book “The Gold Standard” for inspiration during an exhibition tour of Italy with Butler the previous summer.

“I think the best way I can put it,” Stevens explained, “is coaches like him write books and I get to read them.”

Right now, at least. But, some day, Stevens might do more than just read Mike Krzyzewski’s book. He might write the sequel to his story at Duke.

And if Stevens does, remember that you heard it here first.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: Could Duke Be In Brad Stevens Future?

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Excellent thought, he’d be a good fit…..X-years from now.

    I also think that Purdue would go hard after him if Matt Painter leaves.
    I hope Painter stays…don’t see that Mizzou is inherently any better of a program than Purdue with which to build a national champion.

    Brad Stevens is from Zionsville, so he grew-up maybe 20 minutes away from Hinkle Field House…and then went to DePauw. So my gut tells me that if Creen flames out at IU, they go hard after Stevens.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      I’ve wondered for a long time who will ultimately succeed Coach K at Duke, because none of K’s former/current assistants really appear to be “worthy” of assuming the reins in Durham. I’ve also long wondered if Duke will still be DUKE after K retires. Because, more than any other elite program in the country, I think Duke is elite largely because of its coach.

      North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, etc., all those programs are bigger than any one coach. But Coach K is bigger than Duke. Although, the school did have some hoops success before he arrived, really, he IS Duke. Stevens is the first guy I’ve seen emerge who really seems like he could fit the bill there and keep things rolling. And I do think there’s an excellent chance he lands there — someday.

      In the meantime, though, it will be really interesting to see what decisions he makes. What he needs to avoid, first and foremost, is to not make a foolish decision like Dan Monson and not just jump at any major-conference job offer. Monson should have stayed at Gonzaga longer and held out for a good job rather than take over the awful post-Clem Haskins situation at Minnesota.

      Stevens is too smart to do that. I’m not sure if Purdue could lure him away if Painter does leave. Perhaps. And if Crean does flame out eventually (I think there’s a great chance he ultimately does, stellar 2012 recruiting class, or not), IU definitely could target Stevens. Many Illinois fans also are clamoring for the guy to replace Weber in Champaign.

      Regardless, his career is going to be fascinating to follow.

  • Mike Murphy

    No, no, Quin Snyder is the hair apparent.

    • Dave Wischnowsky


  • kendall2003

    I see where you are coming from, but I’m not sure that I agree. I think Stevens will stay at Butler and make Butler the next Duke. As we’ve seen in recent years, there’s no rule that says in you have to play in a bigger conference to do well in the tournament. Stevens is an Indiana boy and I believe the only other job he would take would be at IU if it were offered to him.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Duke had tons and tons of cash….very wealthy school…..to invest in a program when Coach K came over from USMA.
      Butler does not have those kinds of resources.
      I think that Wisch is right…when THE right job comes open, Stevens goes for it.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Kendall, I’d agree with you if Butler played in a major conference. But you can only recruit so well when your annual opponents are the likes of UIC, Cleveland State and Wright State. Most big-time recruits want a bigger stage, and I don’t blame them.

      Now, if Butler somehow joined the Big Ten? Well, then that would make plenty of sense for Stevens to stay there. But seeing as Butler doesn’t have the kind of football program that would fit in future Big Ten expansion, that’s not going to happen. I think Stevens will stay at Butler until the perfect job comes along. But at some point, that job — and the ensuing big-time bucks — will emerge.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I think that K will stay at Duke until he has >1000 wins.
    That’s another 4 years.

    Even if he doesn’t go to Duke, Stevens has 115 wins in his career and would have the combination of age/early-success that in another 40 years he could surpass Coach K for lifetime wins.

    Dave, as always, you opened up a rich vein of conversation and thought.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Thank you, sir. And, yes, I see K at Duke for at least four years, maybe even longer. I don’t think Krzyzewski is an extremist like Joe Paterno, who doesn’t seem like he’d not know what to do with himself without coaching, but I also don’t think it will be easy for K to walk away from what he’s built at Duke.

      It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll have to start slipping for him to step down, or if he’ll decide to leave at the so-called top.

      It’s also interesting that Stevens, And despite starting his coaching career three years older than Coach K was when he began, is already ahead of Krzyzewski’s pace for wins:

      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/krzyzewski-brad-stevens-bobby-knight-2011-3#ixzz1I0RrFIas

  • Jake from da burbs

    While I think Brad Stevens would be an excellent successor at Duke, I just dont see Coack K leaving Duke anytime soon. And I dont think that Stevens is going to wait till K retires or stay in Butler to build any sort of legacy. Not now anyways.

    Stevens, being only 34 and being so successful thus far may stay in Butler for a few more years but I see him either moving to a big time program (and big time $) or be given a a shot at the pros. Stevens is in a similar position as Jim Harbaugh was of Stanford. Sure, Harbaugh could have stayed in Stanford but everybody had him already pegged for a big school like Michigan, Penn State etc or the pros.

    So where do I see Stevens in the future?
    1. Texas. This is my big favorite as a landing spot. Coach Barnes is on the hot seat after not being able to deliver a Final 4 appearance this year with a very good team. There’s also speculation that he’s a coach that limits his team and just can’t take the team and win a championship
    2. Kansas. Coach Self’s coaching seat may be starting to get warm after another failure in NCAA tournament.
    3. UConn. Jim Calhoun has had health issues and also violations in the past. I could see either one of those push Calhoun out in the future.

    If Stevens goes the pro route, several teams may give a hot shot college coach a shot even though he may be best suited to be an assistant first. Taking a Pacers or Bucks or TWolves job might be possible and would certainly be interesting.

    Stevens still has a chance to dabble in the pros and still be able to come back to college basketball and build a legacy somewhere. I’d say he’s probably not going to be a Butler lifer. There will be too many opportunities not to at least try something else different.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Enjoyed reading your thoughts on this, Jake. And I completely agree that I don’t think Stevens will just stick around at Duke and wait for Coach K to retire, or anything like that. in fact, I think it’s likely he takes another job before K ever steps down.

      However, no matter where he goes, I still think there’s a great chance that he does leave it to possibly take over at Duke once K does retire. After all, Roy Williams left Kansas (about as big as it gets) to go to UNC (as big as it gets). So, even if Stevens does find himself at Texas, KU, UConn or some other big-time school, Duke could perhaps still lure him away.

      Regardless of it all, the guy is certainly going to have options. And a lot of them.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I also appreciated Jake’s thoughts…Jake always comes through with insightful analysis.
    I think that Duke is most akin to a big-time Butler, and K’s style is akin to Stevens (or vice versa). Stevens is not a Coach Cal one-and-done kind of pimp. He will keep good players together for their 4 years and he will graduate them. I really see him as like K without the potty mouth (or like K’s mentor, Bob Knight, without the sociopathic interpersonal behavior).

    If I’m an A.D. who won’t want to worry about filling the hoops coach job for 40 years, I’d go after Brad with a ton of cash…at a school where hoops is #1.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      I like your analysis of Stevens being like Coach K without the potty mouth (or Knight’s sociopathic behavior). Krzyzewski is not Bobby Knight, but in terms of temper and language, I do think he learned a few things from his mentor.

  • Jake from da burbs

    I looked up Steven’s alma mater to see where he might go if he were offered a big college job. He went to DePauw University and if you read that too fast, you might think you read DePaul. Anyways, DePauw is an Indiana so there would seem that there isn’t any burning desire for Stevens to leave Butler for DePauw.

    It seems that Stevens is a Indiana guy and unless a college super job is offered, he may in fact stick around Butler for a while, except for maybe two jobs. I think if he gets an offer to coach the Indiana Pacers, he might be willing to take that step. He’d be able to stay local and coach a professional team. But that seems like quite a leap. I do however could see Indiana University as a realistic possibility for Stevens in a couple of years.

    I know Tom Crean just got the job 3 years ago but has had 3 losing seasons with only 12 wins in 2010-2011 and an overall record of: 28-66. If Tom Crean can’t produce a winning season, at least an invite to the top 68, in the next 1-2 seasons, I think Crean’s job might be in jeopardy. I think IU has some sanctions against it from Kelvin Sampson and I dont know how that has affected Crean’s ability to recruit but even still, Stevens may jump at the opportunity to go to a highest college job in the state of Indiana and bring that school back to national prominence.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      I’ve been chatting about Stevens today with a friend of mine who’s a beat writer for a major college basketball program. He’s skeptical that Stevens would leave Butler for Purdue — if the job does open up — in large part, because, the pressure on Stevens to reach a Final Four at a major-conference school will be enormous. So, why would he take a job at a school where a Final Four has proven so elusive.

      Also, if Purdue ends up not being able to keep Painter — who is an alum and isn’t as accomplished as Stevens — why would they be able to lure Stevens? It’s not like Stevens will be willing to take less money than what Purdue could offer Painter, and he can’t possibly be as loyal to the Purdue program since he’s not an alum.

      My friend does think it’s more likely that he ends up IU eventually. And he could, but that won’t be happening for a few years at least. I personally don’t think much of Tom Crean as a coach — it’s always been my belief that Dwyane Wade made him and that Crean, in fact, is quite average. But Crean has put together a stellar recruiting class for 2012 — ranked No. 1 in the nation by some services. So, he’s bought himself some time with that, no matter how abysmal his record in Bloomington is thus far.

      I have no idea whether Stevens has aspirations to eventually coach pro basketball, but even if he does, I’d have to to think that would be quite a while off in his career. We shall see how it all turns out.

  • J-Dubya

    I think that it is sad that we can’t believe that a guy would actually keep a job where he makes plenty of money, lives near his hometown, and is very successful.

    Is there the same perceived allure in other jobs? If I got a job offer from the biggest company in the world in my profession to test my skills globally, would I take it? I don’t know. I doubt it? What’s the point if I have to travel more and be away from my family.

    My point is that he is more successful than over 120+ D1 schools in the country for the last two years. Why does he need a bigger stage?

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      My argument would be that he needs a bigger stage if he hopes to recruit at an elite level. Top recruits just aren’t going to want to come to Butler to play in the Horizon League. They want to square off against the big boys, play on national TV regularly, get showcased, etc. That’s just not going to happen at Butler, no matter how strong the program is. It’s because Butler’s opponents just aren’t that sexy.

      If Stevens is cool with that, then good for him. But if he wants to really coach top-level talent on a consistent basis then he needs to head to a major conference school. I just think he’s going to get bored spending every season facing mediocre teams in his league. The tourney is exciting, but it’s only one month. There’s a lot of other basketball that’s played in a season, too.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I agree that Stevens will eventually need a bigger stage.
    He needs, in his own time, to go to a powerhouse hoops conference: Big 10, ACC, Big East.

    Even Bobby Knight could only go so far in the Big 12 with Texas Tech.
    And I’ll bet the cost of a DUI-defense that Billy Bottoms-up Gillispie will not win a national title there either.

  • Shaka NotSoSmart

    Brad Stevens could be considered in Bobby Knight’s coaching tree. He played at DePauw, under Coach Royce Walton. Walton is a former Bobby Knight assistant at Indiana and coach at Indiana State. Does that mean Stevens has loyalty to IU? No. But it could mean that Coach K becomes more confident in his ability to ultimately succeed him.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Impressive and helpful comment…thanks for the insight.

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