Stevens’ smart moves also applied to career change

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In case you missed it last season, this year, or any of the numerous times it’s been mentioned during the NCAA tournament, Butler coach Brad Stevens, 34, made an incredible career switch nearly 11 years ago.

He went from  marketing associate at Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company based in Indianapolis, to the path of a college basketball coach. Yes, it was an unusual decision. But it’s one Stevens hardly regrets – especially after reaching two Final Fours, something most coaches don’t even do once.

“I’ve looked back on it many times,” Stevens told the New York Times. “There have been many a days in coaching where I’ve said, What was I thinking? Because it is not the easiest job in the world. But it is very fulfilling, not because of the results you achieve but because of the relationships you build.”

That’s from a solid feature on Stevens, whose Bulldogs play Connecticut in the NCAA tournament title game on Monday.

The basics on Stevens, who graduated from DePauw University (Indiana) in 1999 with a degree in economics, is that he went from intern to full-time employee at the company, but didn’t like his job that included analysis of sales to determine compensation for pharmaceutical representatives. (Hey, who wouldn’t love that?)

So Stevens, who played basketball at DePauw, went back to one of his loves. Hoops.  From the Times:

Thad Matta, who was entering his first year as Butler’s coach, offered Stevens a job as a volunteer assistant after Stevens worked at Butler’s summer camp. Stevens, unsure if he should accept it, had several conversations with his co-workers at Eli Lilly about the opportunity. Stevens said many of his co-workers supported his desire to go into coaching.

The issue was simple: stick with his comfortable corporate job or go down an uncertain path to pursue his basketball dreams. But his colleagues could tell that Stevens was leaning toward leaving, and he joined Butler for the 2000-1 season.

“I really thought he was going to be successful here,” said Bruen, a senior director for strategic pricing at Eli Lilly. “He was competing with guys who had M.B.A.’s from Harvard and Northwestern and Stanford. And he was holding his own real well.”

Not every career change works. But Stevens clearly knew what he was doing. Shouldn’t be a surprise given he rarely makes a coaching misstep.

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