OT: Brad Stevens Top Target for UCLA Job

Submitted by Blarvey on March 29th, 2013 at 11:49 AM

As one would expect, Brad Stevens is reportedely the main target of UCLA in their search for a new head coach. The article doesn't go into too many details other than to say that Stevens has reaffirmed that he is the coach of Butler. Stevens has been highly sought-after for a while now:

He was targeted by major conference schools such as Oregon, Wake Forest and Clemson in 2010, but signed an extension with Butler through the 2021-22 season. He reportedly makes around $1 million per season. Ben Howland, recently fired by UCLA, was making $2.3 million, but UCLA has had an influx of money, thanks to new television deals with the Pac-12 Network, ESPN and Fox.

Obviously there is a big difference between what he can make at UCLA, but with college basketball changing so quickly, it's not inconceivable that he could make a lot more money as the program grows. Perhaps this was also part of Shaka Smart's thinking:

Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth was also among UCLA's targets, but he said Wednesday he was returning to VCU and the school announced it was extending his contract through 2023.

I wish more college football coaches would do this. Guys like Chris Petersen, Gary Patterson, and Frank Solich are the Bo Schembechlers and Bobby Bowdens of their schools and while they haven't won a MNC, they took there program to the next level and resisted what could have been either very rewarding or completely fruitless job somewhere else.



March 29th, 2013 at 11:57 AM ^

Basketball is a different sport than football. In some respects it makes it easier for a guy like Stevens to stay put, because you don't need to be at a big school in one of three or four conferences to reach the highest levels of success in the sport. There's no reason that he can't win national championships at Butler and make tournament runs every year, and what else do you need?

On the other hand, he is a perfect target for UCLA, even more so than Smart, in my opinion. The optics don't hurt--the last time they hired a young, energetic coach from Indiana it worked pretty well--and he knows how to run a program in a city that may lack some of the best resources. He'll also be able to re-win Los Angeles, and in a city that loves a winner he can become Pete Carroll-level popular. And UCLA is one of the top five iconic programs in basketball.


snarling wolverine

March 29th, 2013 at 2:09 PM ^

Good question.  His career winning percentage is one-thousandth of a point higher than that of his VCU predecessor, Anthony Grant, and he's done worse in conference play (Grant won three consecutive league titles; Smart has won none).    

Now, it could be that VCU is just really good at picking coaches, but OTOH, Grant isn't doing all that well at Alabama (one NCAA appearance in four years).



March 29th, 2013 at 2:23 PM ^

Smart won his league's title one season ago.

Grant is an above-average coach. He also had the benefit of his three years being the exact three years that two of the three greatest players in VCU overlapped (Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders). Smart made that run (and made the NCAA twice more and won a game both times) with no one who'll sniff the NBA.

snarling wolverine

March 29th, 2013 at 2:41 PM ^

Smart won the conference tournament a year ago, but has never won a regular-season title.  Grant OTOH won three consecutive regular-season titles, so they've actually gone downward in that regard.  

Grant may have benefitted from Jeff Capel's recruiting, but he also recruited virtually the entire team that Smart made the NCAA run with.  I visited a VCU board before and after our game with them and there are some there beginning to wonder if Smart can recruit as well as Grant did.  Maybe that's just a post-loss reaction, but it's a fair question to wonder how much of what he's done is his own doing, and how much of it is him living off momentum established by Capel and Grant.


March 29th, 2013 at 2:52 PM ^

Grant won with Capel's recruits, technically. And yeah, Smart couldn't have done what he did so quickly had VCU not lucked out with two above-average coaches before him to stabilize the program with decent players. Obvious things are obvious.

Melvin Johnson and Jordan Burgess were both Top 100 recruits that came in last year, which was pretty unheard of before Shaka. I think he has a really highly ranked PG coming in this year too but I can't remember the kid's name. (He also got Jamie Skeen who was probably VCU's best player in the Final Four run to transfer from Wake Forest, not a Grant recruit.) He can't recruit with Calipari, but he's recruiting better (from a pure recruiting rankings standpoint) than anyone before him.

If you were looking at VCURamNation.com, those people are pretty unhinged. They are utterly convinced that Havoc is unstoppable and worked on Michigan because we had 2 turnovers higher than our average. 95% of the people on there did not follow VCU before the Final Four run and think they're a basketball superpower. They also litter their board with references to fODU and fGMU and fUR (F--- old dominion, george mason, and richmond) but openly deny that they have a rivalry with any of those schools because "their program is on a completely different level." I wouldn't take them seriously.

snarling wolverine

March 29th, 2013 at 3:57 PM ^

That was not the site that I went to.  I forget the exact address (I had it bookmarked and then deleted it) but they were mocking VCURamNation as well.

Anyhow, I agree that Grant benefitted as well from what Capel did.  That's the thing.  It's hard to tell how much of this is the program and how much is the coach.  Capel didn't do too well at Oklahoma (aside from when he had Blake Griffin) and Grant hasn't done too much at Alabama (one tourney appearance in four years).



March 29th, 2013 at 3:41 PM ^

I've always assumed that most coaches have a GA, or secretary fill out their ballots.  However, I would expect the most incompetent GA, or clueless secretary to know enough to get Duke on the ballot.  

Sounds like maybe an intentional oversight to me.  Who knows?  

snarling wolverine

March 29th, 2013 at 4:03 PM ^

The coaches are supposed to do the voting themselves.  In basketball there's not quite the same timecrunch as in football, where everyone plays on the same day, so I'd guess the average coach is more likely to cast his own ballot there.

In any event, if I'm going to put my name on a ballot for the poll (and these things are publicly visible in basketball), I think I'd want to avoid it having anything provocative (like leaving a top 10 team completely off it).  



March 29th, 2013 at 3:13 PM ^

I've actually heard the samething.  I don't remember where I heard it from, and while it would be a different style than Beilein, it should would help bring recruits in.  Not to mention the resources are greater at Michigan than VCU.


March 29th, 2013 at 12:08 PM ^

Stevens is one of the guys who gets it. All of these coaches are well compensated, and at a certain point salary increases start to matter less than being a school you love and that loves you, a school that allows you to compete at a high level (which hasnt been a problem at Butler), not uprooting your family for a 3-5 year stint in an unfamiliar city, etc.


March 29th, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

I don't blame OP for posting the article but Stevens is the top candidate for every major conference job that opens up. At this point he is either never leaving Butler, or he has one to three dream schools that are the only way he would leave.

In addition, UCLA did just fire a coach who went to three straight final fours in the last decade and just won the regular season conference title. I realize there are all sorts of rumors about how bad Howland was at managing the team and keeping up relations with high school coaches in southern Cal, but UCLA just does not seem like a good place to be at right now.

panthera leo fututio

March 29th, 2013 at 2:16 PM ^

Whatever the culture of expectations and the current dysfunction of the program at UCLA, it seems to me that it really ought to be one of the easiest places to recruit to in the country. There's the historical aspect, but the combination of UCLA's campus/climatic/lady-in-tiny-shorts beauty, its academic strength, a newly renovated Pauly right on campus, and the general cultural draw of LA would also have to make recruiting pitches much easier, especially given the number of high-caliber players that come out of Southern Cal. Also, there seems (to me anyway) to be a very distinct lingering cultural presence of John Wooden, which has to appeal to Right Way coaches/players.


March 29th, 2013 at 1:01 PM ^

Without missing the point of your post, I wouldn't include Solich in that group.  He's already done the big-school, climb-the-ladder thing, and he got chewed up for his trouble.  Unceremoniously fired in 2003 after a 9-3 season (and a 58-19 tenure at Nebraska), for what I believe the AD called "mediocrity."

Then in 2005, he was arrested for DUI.  Recall the U-M reaction to Moeller's unfortunate drinking incident, and you can understand why big-name schools might be hesitant to give him a call as their next HC.  Honestly, I was a bit surprised that Ohio (NTO) didn't can him, but he seems to have continued on without any additional trouble.

In summary, the reasons why he stays are likely different than the other coaches you mention.

EQ RC Blue

March 29th, 2013 at 1:02 PM ^

First, people seem to think these guys are going to be able to "compete at the highest level" year after year.  Well, despite back to back final fours, Butler has exactly one four star recruit since, a fringe top 100 guy.  So, a guy below Stauskas is the best recruit Butler has picked up over three years.  Maybe Stevens can get these guys to go back to the final four as juniors and seniors, but there are other very good coaches out there getting more talented players.  History says it'll be hard to compete.  Maybe Butler's recruiting will pick up more as it moves to the Big East, but so far they've been beaten out for guys by IU, PU, UM, etc.  They were around 50 in kenpom this year, lower than Michigan was as a 9 seed a couple years ago. 

Second, the pressure will start to pick up if they don't replicate the magic.  Now, the glow from two years ago still shines, and the places are just happy to be there.  In a few years, if the teams haven't gotten out of the first weekend in five years, people will start asking why they're paying nearly 2 million for a coach who isn't producing any out of the ordinary results.  

They're not going to leave for the Minnesota job.  But when elite jobs come along, we'll see.  UCLA is a good test case.  Would Stevens turn down IU if that job came open?  OSU, MSU, UM, Duke?  Would Shaka turn down 'Ville, where a roster that suits his style might be set up. 

Now, these guys get calls every time there's an opening.  What happens when some openings occur and they don't get interest? 

Maybe they will stay.  Mark Few has, at least so far.  In general, though, these guys are becoming smarter and more patient about when and where they jump, but most still go.


March 29th, 2013 at 2:11 PM ^

These programs, particularly VCU, are making major invetments in the long term stability of their programs.  

Reports indicate that talks this week between Smart and VCU focused less on compensation and more on program enhancements -- such as chartered flights, training table, video system upgrades and weight room upgrades.  Smart also wanted more compenstation for his staff.

Already, VCU's newly renovated Franklin Street Gym appears to rival many around the country

"It's a great facility for our program. We have the ability to practice as a team, do individual workouts or even do some conditioning. It is the perfect size so we all still have that team feel, but with two courts and six baskets, we have plenty of options for practice, player development, drills and scouting. This is a high-quality facility that is a major asset for us." - Coach Smart

Look at what's happening.  Coach Smart has turned down jobs and overtures from Illinois, Minnesota and UCLA and Charles Barkley is on board saying the Rams have "become the Gonzaga of the East Coast."  Barkley also recently donated his name to their new film room.

Wolverine fans should be glad Coach Smart didn't take the jobs at Illinois and Minnesota.  The last thing we need is a rival with a coach that builds new buildings!  He appears to be hell bent on laying a strong player development foundation at VCU, not completely dissimilar from what Michigan has done with the state of the art Bill Davidson Player Development Center.

Hats off to Coach Smart and here's hoping Coach Stevens follows a similar path.  



March 29th, 2013 at 2:25 PM ^

I'm wondering about the law of diminishing returns regarding all these facility upgrades.  There's only so much talent out there.  Logically, every program that spends a ton upgrading its practice area can't reap the benefits because there are more and more schools with impressive stuff.  There must be schools out there that have spent and have little to show for it.  I suppose PSU (with the Bryce-Jordan Center) is one.



March 29th, 2013 at 4:19 PM ^

VCU and Butler are in the Atlantic 10 and last year VCU was in the Colonial Conference.

How many of these 20 or so schools have the program buy-in and athletic department budget to expand their facilities?  And in the long run, how are "significant" facility upgrades correlated with program victories and talent recruitment?

I remember when the Pistons got Roundball One (chartered plane), that it was considered a major breakthrough for their ability to compete in the NBA.    




March 29th, 2013 at 2:21 PM ^

Guys like Chris Petersen, Gary Patterson, and Frank Solich are the Bo Schembechlers and Bobby Bowdens of their schools

Bo and Bowden both left smaller schools (Miami (Oh) and WVU, respectively) for larger schools, so perhaps that isn't the best analogy. Also, Solich is at Ohio because he failed at Nebraska. 

If you're implying that coaches who move up in job prestige are sellouts, I think that's entirely unfair.  The food chain is what it is.  If you can raise your school's profile to the point that it can join a major conference (as TCU has done), then there may be no reason to leave, but if you can't, then you're ultimately making it harder for yourself to compete in the long run. There's nothing wrong in a person's character with wanting to move onto a bigger job. Brady Hoke and John Beilein have done that repeatedly.


March 29th, 2013 at 4:27 PM ^

You are completely right and my point is not that coaches that climb the ladder are selling out or anything negative. My point is that there are coaches that are willing to stay at a school, (often basketball coaches at smaller schools where basketball is the moneymaker) and have a chance to change a mid-major school into a powerhouse. That certainly doesn't happen overnight and it takes a real commitment from the coaches and the athletic department.

MAC football coaches move up a lot to higher profile jobs, often in the B1G. There is nothing wrong with trying to find the next challenge or win at the next level, but I have a lot of respect for those that are willing to commit to a place and build up a program. Another poster mentioned Smart and VCU's negotiations also dealing with assistant pay and facilities upgrades - things that help the players and the program.

There are some coaches (Petrino, Saban, Erickson, etc.) that I can't imagine staying in one place for very long but a guy like Bo, turning down a big offer from Texas A&M (not saying it would be an upgrade or even a lateral move) because he was having success and enjoying his time at Michigan, speaks to his character and loyalty. Fans of schools with coaches that win and are very committed are very fortunate.


March 29th, 2013 at 3:15 PM ^

That Shaka was offered the UCLA job? We don't even have "sources" in this article, really. Or did this negotiations exist just so Smart could tell VCU to give him more money?

Still, if nothing else, the article gives us an excuse for more Cassidy Hubbarth.


March 29th, 2013 at 3:37 PM ^

Having the SC and UCLA jobs both open is making a lot of coaches a lot of bucks.  Dixon and Alford got big extensions after being bounced in the first round.  Smart and Pastner got extensions after going out in the Round of 32.  Stevens looks to be cashing in as well.  Even guys like Gottfried and Lorenzo Romar (former UCLA assistants) are starting to get their names into the mix.

If Pat Haden and Dan Guerrero have your phone number, you are probably going to have a nice day as a head coach.


March 29th, 2013 at 6:57 PM ^

It is interesting to consider, now that Brad Stevens has declined and Shaka Smart is out of the question, that UCLA has had eight coaches since Wooden retired, with only three of them staying more than five years. I would wager a guess that recent history like that would be one of many disincentives for a younger rising star in the coaching ranks, if the expectation is immediate success (and never-ending deep runs in the Tournament) or you are gone. 

That being said, there are people who are interested in the job - not sure how UCLA would feel about it really, but one Kareem Abdul-Jabbar threw his hat in the ring in a March 27th interview. It seems likely unrealistic, of course, but the list of people that UCLA actually wants is getting rather thin.