Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Category: Sports > Winter > Basketball (Men's)
Not too interested in comics or cartoons as a kid, I was never too sure of my favorite superhero. I went through a brief Power Rangers phase that I'm sure hardly thrilled my parents; I'm sure even they noticed that the black ranger enjoyed break dancing and that the yellow ranger was Asian.
I liked Batman, but his overt opulence, wise butler and pimped-out ride didn't exactly make him a working class (super)hero.
But I am happy to report that now I have a favorite superhero whose presence is changing the landscape of college basketball. The geeky glasses, the confident smile and the calm demeanor all point to one undeniable reality - Butler head coach Brad Stevens is Clark Kent. Clark Kent is Superman. Thus, Brad Stevens is Superman.
Superman protected the masses and the earth from gangsters, lynch mobs and wife beaters. Stevens proves that paying players, violating sanctions and negotiating package deals can be defeated by a culture of teamwork, resilience and grit. They are both saviors, but the college basketball community still can't find Stevens' kryptonite.
Though not yet a champ, Stevens has mastered the art of being unassuming. For two straight years, he's proved that a disciplined team with decent talent can change the college hoops culture derided by so many.
A former pharmaceutical rep who looks like he should be leading your Political Science discussion, Stevens has already established himself as one of the top college basketball coaches before his 35th birthday. In fact, as crazy as it seems, he may already be one of the best ever in only his fourth season as a leading man.
Too bold a claim? Butler promoted Stevens to head coach in 2007 after serving for six seasons as an assistant. As a head coach, Stevens is 117-25, has won his regular season conference championship every season and, before Monday's historically bad shooting night, had not lost an NCAA tournament game by more than five points (and one loss went to overtime). In the NCAA Tournament, Stevens is an astounding 11-4, has defeated two different No. 1 seeds and has already been to two national championship games.
The concept of the NCAA being "minor league basketball" is already well defined, but recently debates have emerged regarding the greed of the NCAA. Success in March Madness means significant payouts to the universities that succeed in the tournament. The financial allure of success has driven countless Division-I coaches to break all sorts of rules to improve their squads and enhance their chances. Stevens' counterpart in last night's contest, Jim Calhoun, was sanctioned by the NCAA this season for the illegal recruitment of a player that never donned a UConn uniform.
Conversely, Stevens has tapped into potential that nobody thought was possible this day in age. Raised in Indiana, the state where basketball is king, Stevens has shown that the establishment of a program - what he calls "The Butler Way" - can overcome the demons that surround college basketball.
Butler is a team full of under-recruited, basketball-savvy individuals with sterling fundamentals. The Bulldogs position themselves perfectly to rebound and can score both inside and from the perimeter.
Though the Bulldogs lost to the Huskies, Stevens has cemented his role and importance within college basketball. For Stevens, the championship will wait, but back-to-back title appearances solidifes Butler as, if not a national college basketball powerhouse, a team with a proven track record in March. He's building a power and doing it "The Butler Way." Calhoun can celebrate his title, but his bad reputation won't vanish with a third championship plaque.
It may have taken me until I was 21, but I definitely know my favorite superhero now.
Contact Gabriel [email protected]
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