Worth His Weight In Gold

April 4, 2011

It really hasn’t been questioned for over a year now; Butler head coach Brad Stevens is surely one of, and arguably the best, young head coach in men’s college basketball. The real question is, does Butler have the resources and, more particularly, the money, to keep someone with so much potential at a mid-major level program?

Shortly after the national championship game last season, in which Butler came within inches of knocking off major power Duke in a game that will forever be a top NCAA tournament classic, Stevens signed a 12-year deal with the program, which will keep him in Indianapolis through the 2021-2022 season. Of course, this deal was settled before Butler’s return to the championship game this year, which was oddly less miraculous a run than last year’s.

Although an official number for Stevens’ new salary has not been released, it is estimated that he makes somewhere between $800,000 and $1 million per season. While his success in this year’s tournament could increase that number, it is unlikely that a school like Butler would be willing to dish out somewhere between $1.6 and $2 million dollars annually. Even the bigger schools within the state are reluctant to dish out the big bucks. Before Purdue head coach Matt Painter recently signed a new deal that would pay him $2.3 million annually, Painter was making only $1.3 million guaranteed (with the possibility of up to $1 million more in incentives). That is from a team in the Big Ten, where schools are more willing across the board to pay coaches high salaries to keep away the sharks (in Painter’s case, the Missouri Tigers).

Money is only half the issue in Stevens’ case, though. The man has taken a team from the Horizon League to back-to-back national championship games. What other mid-major coach can say that? No one. Butler lost their best player last year in Gordon Heyward, and still managed to beat teams like Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Florida. Those teams, mind you, are the same types of teams that overlooked players on Stevens’ squad like Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. Of the players on Butler’s squad, Mack will play in the NBA…Howard might get a shot. Other than those two, this team is made up of players that the big boys didn’t want. You might get lucky and take a team like that to the Final Four once, but twice…no. Coaching has a lot to do with Butler’s success.

So, who might be lusting for Stevens’ services after the 2011 tournament has concluded? Well, the list is too long to bother with, but that is okay. Brad Stevens can basically take his pick as to what team he would like to coach. The man is 34 years old, has two national title appearances under his belt, and after tonight could be calling himself “National Title Winning Coach”. Forget Missouri and N.C. State…Stevens is good enough for a marquee position. Think Indiana, Duke, or UConn.

Indiana has to be thinking up ways to try to lure Stevens to Bloomington. Currently, the Hoosiers are the laughingstock of the Big Ten, and this year there is a case to be made that they were the fifth best team in the state of Indiana, behind Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Indiana State. If the Hoosiers are willing to spend over $2 million annually on a guy who is 28-66 in three years with the program, and has taken just one team past the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament in his entire coaching career, you’d think they’d be willing to offer a little more to a guy who could be the next Coach K or Bob Knight. 

Then again, maybe Stevens isn’t bluffing. Maybe he really does enjoy Indianapolis and Butler University, and the allure of a big name that would attract top talent every year isn’t his cup of tea. If that is the case, then Butler better get started on a statue of Stevens, because the price of gold is rising, and Stevens isn’t getting any thinner.

– K. Becks

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