For hot coaches like Brad Stevens, best move may be to stay put
That's it. Nothing. Just sit there at your desk, Coach, and don't watch film, don't wonder if
For most college coaches, nothing is impossible.
Before Wake Forest's
When Brad Stevens pulls into a gas station, three ADs offer to fill his tank. That is his life now. He will be mentioned for every job that comes open, and quite a few jobs that
And this is where we'll learn all about Brad Stevens. Will he take the next big job that's offered to him? Or will he stay put until the right offer for him comes along?
Please understand: this is not a moral question. Butler has gotten its money's worth out of Stevens. He is entitled to leave for another gig.
This is about Stevens making a smart career choice, not just the obvious one. The obvious choice is to go to Wake Forest, a bigger name in a bigger conference that pays bigger money -- or, if not Wake Forest, then the next big school that comes along.
But the obvious choice for
Wake Forest has its appeal: Tobacco Road, ACC, all that. But Stevens would be going from the best job in his league to a tougher one in a tougher league. It is one thing to win over Indianans with 58-55 wins; another to beat Duke and North Carolina that way. And if Stevens adjusts his style ... well, that would be tough, too.
Stevens would also find out what coaches rarely consider: in coaching, credits don't carry over when you transfer. Kentucky fans didn't care how much Gillispie won at A&M. Arkansas fans didn't care that
You can't hang your old banner from the new arena. But you can be sure that everybody in Spokane appreciates
None of this is meant as a shot at Wake Forest. It was a great job for
It's tricky business, this job-hopping thing. Too often, coaches reach for the next rung on the ladder without even looking at it -- sometimes they don't even visit their new campus until they arrive for the press conference. Athletic directors fall in love with anybody who pulls off a tournament upset. It can be a lethal combination.
"I'm surprised at some guys going some places," said former coach
Gillen was the hot young coach once. He turned Xavier into a national power, and he stayed almost a decade. But he says he thought, "I don't want to be sitting on the porch one day wondering what it's like at the highest level."
He left for Providence because it was in the Big East and his in-laws lived in New England. Then he went to Virginia because it was in the ACC and offered a ton of money. He says he had no regrets.
"I just made some mistakes at Virginia," Gillen said. "I don't regret going there."
Gillen says he had his own requirements for any new gig: "I wanted to go to a job where people cared about students, where they wanted to win of course -- that's my job -- but cared about students, and sincerely, SINCERELY wanted them to graduate."
Gillen said he had that commitment at all three schools. That, too, is something Stevens will have to consider as schools come calling. If a coach is committed to following the rules and having his players graduate, he can't go to a place that just cares about winning.
Gillen pointed out that athletic directors fall for whoever has won lately. But especially in basketball, where one player can have such a big impact, mediocre coaches sometimes have great years.
"You can get hot for one year and move on," Gillen said. "Guys who have done it for a few years, those guys are for real. A lot of these (ADs) are not basketball guys. They're fundraisers or they're associate AD in charge of the facilities. There's nothing wrong with that. But they wouldn't know a good coach if it hit them in the head."
Gillen has spent a little time with Stevens lately. He does not claim to know what Stevens will do, and will not say what he thinks Stevens should do. All he has is a hunch.
"I have no inner knowledge of what he is going to do," Gillen said. "But my sense is he will stay at Butler for a while. I don't think money is the biggest thing for him. He's not a big ego guy. I don't think he is a wheeler dealer. He's just a nice solid person from the Midwest. I think he's grounded enough, he's just not going to jump to a big job that is going to offer a fortune. Maybe down the road."
That would not be the obvious choice. But if Stevens stays put for the next five years, he'll consistently contend in his league, be adored in his community, make more money than he needs -- and many of his colleagues will think he is a fool.
That's the pressure on Brad Stevens now. It is pressure any of us would feel. When everybody in your profession is whispering "bigger, better, richer," are you strong enough to say no? Are you comfortable enough with yourself to stay put? Are you confident enough in yourself to turn down a good job because you think you can earn a better one down the road?
The hard choice can lead to an easier life. The hard choice is for Stevens to stay at Butler, at least for a little while, until he is sure as can be that the right job has come along.
But then, the hard choice for
We'll see about that.