The University of Illinois is seeking a new head basketball coach. A hot name for the past three years is Brad Stevens, who has made a tremendous name for himself in his short tenure as basketball coach. His record is glowing, to say the least.
Brad Stevens's love for the game began at the age of five, when he started to watch taped basketball games. His dad also took him to Indiana Hoosiers basketball games.
This love propelled him to become one of the best basketball players ever at Zionsville Community High School, where he still holds the record for career scoring (1,508 points), assists (444), steals (156), and single-season scoring (644 points). He was named all-conference three times.
Stevens then moved on to DePauw University, where he played in 101 games, grabbed several all-conference and academic all-conference awards, and was a three-time Academic All-American nominee. He was named a team captain his senior year and averaged over eight points per game in three of his four years. He graduated from DePauw in 1999 with a degree in Economics.
In 2000, Stevens was offered an opportunity as coordinator of basketball operations at Butler by head coach Thad Matta. Matta left following the 2000-2001 season, and new head coach Todd Lickliter gave Stevens a full-time assistant coaching position.
Stevens would remain an assistant until 2007, when Lickliter took the coaching vacancy at Iowa. Stevens was then promoted to head coach at the age of 30, making him the second youngest coach in Division I basketball.
Stevens started his head coaching career with a bang. Butler ended the 2007-2008 regular season 27-3 and 16-2 in the Horizon League. After beating tenth-seeded South Alabama in the first round, seventh-seed Butler fell to Tennessee, ending the season with a school and Horizon League record 30 wins.
Butler's expectations were not high heading into the 2008-2009 season after losing four starters. But they once again won the Horizon League with a 15-3 conference record. They failed to win the conference tournament but still grabbed an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Louisiana State in the opening round. Butler finished the season 26-6.
Stevens set the bar high for the Bulldogs. They began the 2009-2010 season ranked in the top 25 of both national polls. They went undefeated in conference play and won the league tournament, placing them as a fifth-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Butler made its first ever NCAA National Championship appearance by beating UTEP, Murray State, Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State. It then lost, 61-57, to Duke in the National Championship and finished ranked No. 2 in the Coaches' Poll, the highest in school history.
After the season, Stevens signed a long-term contract with Butler, extending it through the 2020-2021 season. Stevens was hoping to end any speculation that he would leave the program for a higher paying job. He went on to say he was loyal to Butler and would only leave if they kick him out.
The 2010-11 season was again a success for Butler, capturing a fourth straight conference title, a conference tournament title, and a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Butler made it to the NCAA National Championship for a second straight year but fell short again, this time to Connecticut. They finished with a record of 28-10, giving Stevens 26 or more wins in each of his first four seasons.
Butler failed to make the NCAA Tournament field this season with a record of 20-14, settling for a spot in the CBI. The Bulldogs's first round game is against Delaware Wednesday night.
In his five seasons at Butler, Stevens has enjoyed many accolades, including Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award finalist (2009), Hugh Durham for Mid-major Coach of the Year finalist (2008, 2009, 2010), Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year award finalist (2008, 2009, 2010), Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award finalist (2010), and Horizon League Coach of the Year (2009, 2010).
Stevens is known for his calm demeanor; he never seems to lose his cool but still gets his players to play their hardest. His style of play is based on solid fundamentals and good teamwork, and his teams are known for great defense, as they try to slow teams down and frustrate them. Stevens recruits players who fit his system and work as a team.
Stevens has proven himself at a young age. He has turned down several colleges seeking to hire him. He may not even consider Illinois, but Mike Thomas must make a call to Stevens because he is a coach you don't want to ignore.
WHY HE WOULD BE A GOOD HIRE:
He is good with fundamentals. He has experience deep in the NCAA Tournament. He has beaten many high major colleges. His style of play is more typical of the Big Ten, and he is a solid if not flashy recruiter.
WHY HE MAY NOT BE A GOOD HIRE:
Could he get away with recruiting the same type of players at Illinois, or would he be expected to recruit the highly-touted prospects? He has no contacts with the Chicago Public League. Some Illinois fans aren't excited with his style of coaching. Has his Indiana heritage created a bias against working for Illinois?