By Tom Davis, The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
INDIANAPOLIS — Butler Men’s Basketball Coach Brad Stevens grew up in the shadow of Indiana’s Bob Knight and Purdue’s Gene Keady, but his path to athletic success hasn’t been similar to the ones taken by those legendary coaches.
Keady was known for his scowl and fire that could get a Boilermaker to defend until his lungs were on fire. Knight was known for … well — does any description do him justice? You get the picture.
With Stevens, 34, a controlled, studious approach has bred confidence in those around him.
“Anytime you have a coach that is calm and confident in any situation, that helps,” Butler senior Matt Howard said.
Stevens has won 114 of his 138 games over the past four seasons and has the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16 for the second time as a head coach. He was groomed under former Butler coaches Todd Lickliter and Thad Matta and has been a part of seven trips to the NCAA Tournament with the program, including four Sweet 16 visits.
The game is still filled with emotional coaches (Tom Izzo, Clemson’s Brad Brownell, Mike Kryzewski, etc.), but Stevens’ approach is appreciated by his players. He has the uncanny ability to know which of his players’ buttons to push to get them to respond.
“Some players don’t need (the yelling),” Howard said. “I never have. To some degree, you have to be motivated by yourself. We have a group of guys that are motivated that way.”
It’s not true that Stevens never gets on his players. But he does so in measured amounts, according to Howard.
“When you have someone that isn’t crazy or a yeller,” said Howard, “when they do get frustrated and show that side, it has more of an impact. You can almost become numb to a guy that is a yeller.”
Stevens’ ways — and the victories he’s amassed — have made him the hottest coaching commodity in the NCAA for the second consecutive spring. In fact, you could probably set your calendar to college basketball’s annual “Brad Stevens watch” each March.
But former Butler coach and current athletic director Barry Collier has taken steps to ensure Stevens is comfortable at Butler.
Collier signed Stevens to an extension through 2022 a year ago, and the coach makes a rumored $1 million annually. Recently, Collier added another year onto that deal.
“It’s a lifetime deal,” Collier told CNBC recently. “And that’s my lifetime, not his. I don’t expect to be alive by the end of his deal.”