But nothing could match the bombshell dropped by Brad Stevens earlier in the afternoon.
After 13 years on campus, and six of the most successful seasons in program history as the head coach, Stevens is now the former head men’s basketball coach of the Bulldogs.
He’ll be formally introduced on Friday as the next coach of the Boston Celtics.
It was stunning news to Butler fans, the campus community, and the players in the room. Senior Khyle Marshall had no idea why he and his teammates were summoned to a late afternoon meeting.
“I really didn’t know what to expect in this meeting,” stated Marshall. “It definitely shocked all of us.”
Marshall noted that as Stevens walked into the room at approximately 5:30p Wednesday afternoon to break the news to the team, tears were already visible. “He really didn’t know how to tell us,” Marshall added.
During last night’s press conference, athletic director Barry Collier shared that the information of Stevens’ impending departure had not been shared with him before Wednesday. So in a span of 48 hours, Butler goes from the celebration of the first day in the Big East to scrambling to find a new head coach.
And this happens a matter of days before the crucial July recruiting period for the next batch of potential Bulldogs.
To say the timing is bad would be an understatement. Then again, Collier was quick to point out that there’s never a great time for a coach to leave.
While Collier stated that the search to replace Stevens has already begun, the timetable for an announcement would not be rushed due to the aforementioned recruiting period. He also stated one person he’s ruling out as a possibility.
That would be himself.
He admitted to thinking about it announcing his own name as the replacement for Stevens. Then joked that in a similar amount of time, he had fired himself from the position. And when asked about potentially being an interim replacement, Collier quickly dismissed that possibility as well.
So, who could the new coach be? Here’s a short list of names with Butler ties.
Graves was the “runner-up” when Brad Stevens was named as the head coach after Todd Lickliter left for Iowa in 2007. He elected to stay at his alma mater until the end of this season, when he left to become a head coach for the first time, at South Alabama.
Immediately after the Stevens news became public, Graves took to Twitter to state his future plans: “Happy for my old boss Brad Stevens & his family for his new opportunity, but I’m excited to see what we can here at USA next year.”
Collier would not comment on Graves specifically during the press conference on Wednesday night. If he had stayed at Butler, there might have been an additional press conference at Hinkle Fieldhouse. However, it appears as Graves will be embarking on his head coaching career in Mobile, not Indianapolis.
Yet another former Bulldog guard, was part of the staff with Todd Lickliter, then left with Todd to go to Iowa. After three years in Iowa City, Jordan has been on John Beilien’s staff at Michigan since 2010, including this year’s run to the national championship game.
Jordan has been part of an intensive recruiting effort while at Michigan of players from the state of Indiana. Current Mr. Basketball Zak Irvin of Hamilton Southeastern chose Michigan over Butler two summers ago. He’ll join fellow Hoosiers Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Spike Albrecht, and Andrew Dakich on this year’s Wolverine roster.
Jordan is also the lead recruiter on potentially next year’s Mr. Basketball in Trevon Blueitt of Park Tudor. Blueitt has also been linked to Butler, and would be the highest profile area recruit to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse in years. That can’t hurt Jordan’s candidacy, not to mention he played for Collier for three seasons.
Miller just returned to campus to help fill the void of the departure of Graves from the coaching staff. He spent one season in Champaign with John Groce as a special assistant to the head coach, following three years working with Thad Matta at Ohio State.
Miller was on the staff with Brad Stevens during his first year as the head coach in 2007-08. He has a total of six years of Big Ten experience, plus a year at Xavier immediately following his playing days at Butler.
Of the current assistant coaches, Miller would be the most likely to be elevated to the top spot.
Are there other names worth considering as well? Certainly. Former coach Todd Lickliter is literally just down the street preparing to embark on his second season as the head coach at Marian. Former Butler assistant Jeff Meyer is also a part of the staff at Michigan, but it’s been 16 years since he’s been a head coach.
Since every hire following Barry Collier have been on staff at the time, and given the late nature of this announcement, you’ve gotta think that the next head coach is someone either currently within the organization, or an extended member of the Butler family.
It’s a deep talent pool to choose from, there’s just not an obvious choice.
Then again, that was the case the last time, and that was six years, 166 wins, and two national championship games ago.
Not to mention two leagues ago as well.