Stevens: Butler could face Duke again
INDIANAPOLIS -- College basketball fans may get another chance to watch Duke and Butler.
One day after signing a new 12-year contract with the Bulldogs, coach Brad Stevens mapped out his long-term vision for Butler basketball that includes bringing in more talent, upgrading the schedule and, yes, perhaps getting a regular-season rematch with the Blue Devils next season.
I think very few people want to play Duke, but if you have to play Duke in the national championship, you'll take it.” -- Brad Stevens
"We have been approached about that but it all depends on the times and the dates," Stevens said Friday. "I think very few people want to play Duke, but if you have to play Duke in the national championship, you'll take it. Our hope is that this translates into more opportunities on neutral courts and getting home-and-homes, like Gonzaga."
The 33-year-old coach has wasted no time in capitalizing on the Bulldogs' national championship run, which ended Monday night in a 61-59 loss to Duke.
Stevens has already landed a pay raise and long-term job security at a program that has perhaps jumped ahead of Gonzaga and Xavier in the mid-major pecking order. He hit the recruiting trail Friday, an effort looking to bring even more talent to his already strong program, and now he wants to keep Butler in the spotlight.
"I think this has been an elite program from a competitive standpoint for a long time," Stevens said. "But we want to continue to promote Butler well and we have multiple opportunities to do that because of this run."
Stevens didn't specify which teams, other than Duke, the Bulldogs would consider playing in future seasons.
How much stronger can the schedule get?
The Bulldogs won the 2007 NIT Preseason Tip-Off and faced a grueling stretch last fall that featured victories over Ohio State, UCLA and Xavier and losses to Clemson, Minnesota and Georgetown.
And how much more improvement can the Bulldogs make after losing the closest title game in two decades by a bounce?
Some prep players may be persuaded to take a second look at the Bulldogs, who are coming off their first Final Four appearance and a school record 25-game winning streak. But Stevens insists the team he has, which could return four of five starters next season, is already good.
"You know, if we get better recruits than the ones who almost won us a national championship, I'll be surprised," Stevens said, drawing laughter. "So our focus will be on getting the guys that can help Butler."
Neither Stevens nor athletic director Barry Collier would discuss financial details of the deal, though it is presumed Stevens got a significant pay raise. Both also declined to get into details of the buyout clause.
Collier, a former Butler player and coach, met with Stevens on Tuesday and had the deal done two days later. Collier said he believes the deal will ease any doubts recruits may have about Stevens leaving Butler, even though it is common to see deals broken in today's college basketball world.
"The only thing we can control is really what we're doing today and preparing for tomorrow," Collier said. "You know, I don't expect to be in the same place a year from now that I am now. We all are seeking constant improvement as part of the Butler way, and we think this deal helps with that."
Butler still has one big question hanging around: Will sophomore forward Gordon Hayward jump to the NBA instead of playing his final two years with the Bulldogs?
Hayward said this week that he wanted to speak with his family before making a decision, and Stevens has offered to provide advice if the family wants it. The new contract could also play a role in Hayward's decision.
"I'm just glad all the eyes are going onto him now," Stevens said. "I will support him 100 percent whatever he wants to do. I can't put myself, and I don't think any of us can, in those shoes. One thing about Gordon is that whatever he decides to do, there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform."
Just like Stevens will have now as he tries to implement his master plan for Butler.
"I never really thought we'd have a press conference to announce you still have your job," he joked. "But I'm thrilled with it. It's flattering to be discussed [for other jobs)] but oftentimes, what you see in the media is speculation. What I wanted to happen is really what happened."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press