Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

July 6, 2013

These are brutal days for Butler, Indiana college hoops fans

State loses another of its brightest stars to the NBA.

(Continued)

This amazing feel-good story can’t be over, can it?

Here’s a guy who in 1999 as a well-paid employee of Eli Lilly, popped in the front door one day and told his wife Tracy, “I think I’ll quit my job and go to work as coordinator of basketball operations at Butler. Oh hon’ by the way, there’s no salary. I’m just helping out you know.”

And Tracy says, “Sure, sounds like fun. Love ya.”

Are you kidding me? Who are these people in real life?

Apparently, it’s the Stevens. And wow, did they make it work. In April of 2007, Stevens was named head coach and in six seasons, all the Bulldogs did was capture four conference championships (with a record of 84-22) and play in two NCAA championship games. Stevens’ 166 wins were the most by any Division I coach in his first six seasons, all this at a mid-major school that had no business playing before national audiences.

But it wasn’t just victories and championships that endeared Stevens to Hoosier basketball fans. It was the way he went about his job. His players went to class (even on the day of the NCAA championship game in 2011) and they graduated. Discipline issues seemed almost non-existent. He and his players said and did all the right things. Butler won with old fashioned team basketball and did it all with class. Never was there a hint of rules being broken or players getting special treatment.

The low-key Stevens was John Wooden-Tony Hinkle-Norman Dale all rolled into one. And each time he turned down a high-profile, higher-paying college job the likes of Oregon, Illinois and UCLA, Hoosiers smiled. We knew by staying at Butler he was showing his love of our state and its players and in his own way, perhaps thanking the university for that first coaching opportunity 14 years ago. We also knew Stevens wasn’t in the business merely to chase the bigger paycheck. It was comforting knowing he was our guy and no one was getting him — at any price. It gave Hoosiers one more reason to puff up our chests about Indiana’s ownership of the game.

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