Butler was good before Brad Stevens got there.
In the wake of the news that the now-former Butler head coach has taken on the role of being Doc Rivers’ replacement with the Boston Celtics, that’s the most important fact to remember here.
Brad Stevens made Butler a national phenomenon by taking them to back-to-back title games, but he didn’t build that program.
Barry Collier — who is currently Butler’s AD — did. He took them to three NCAA tournament appearances in four seasons in the late ’90s before leaving to take over the basketball program at Nebraska. His replacement? Thad Matta, who coached at Butler for one season and took them to the second round of the NCAA tournament before leaving to become the head coach at Ohio State. Next in line was Todd Lickliter, who took Butler to two NCAA tournaments, two NITs and won three Horizon League titles in his six seasons with the Bulldogs before he headed off to take over at Iowa.
Prior to Stevens’ arrival, the Bulldogs were one of the best mid-major programs in the country.
What Stevens did by leading them to NCAA tournament glory was build Butler’s brand. He made the program nationally recognizable instead of just being the best basketball school in Indianapolis. He led them from the Horizon League into the Atlantic 10 and put them on the precipice of a dive into major conference basketball, as the Bulldogs will begin their tenure in the Big East next season.
And yes, that is going to be a difficult thing to do with Stevens gone, but there is still a roster full of talent left behind. And there is still an impressive coaching tree that includes current South Alabama head coach and former Butler associate head coach Matt Graves, Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan, South Alabama assistant coach — and former media darling — Ronald Nored, current Butler assistant coach Brandon Miller. The list goes on.
Brad Stevens was a blessing to the Butler program and led them to the kind of success that they may never see again.
But the Bulldogs were good before he got there.
And there’s no reason to think that will change now that he’s gone.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.