Stevens exhales after title game

April, 9, 2010

Brad Stevens got home early Tuesday morning after Butler fell short in one of the most thrilling endings ever in a national title game.

He immediately went to the tape. He had to see the last 10 minutes of the game again.

"I couldn't sleep. I was miserable so I put it in and watched my misery again," Stevens said. Later that Tuesday, he watched the entire Duke-Butler final.

Stevens said he had no issue with Gordon Hayward taking a fadeaway baseline jumper on the second-to-last possession instead of trying to take the ball to the basket and see if he could get fouled.

"[Duke's Brian] Zoubek did a great job of helping," Stevens said of Hayward's tough shot. "It was a clean look at a jump shot, and he may or may not get the call with contact in a late-game scenario. I would take that shot again because of who was shooting it. I realize it was a tough shot, but he can make it and he will make it a lot more times in his career. I had no regrets about that."

By Wednesday, after making a round of national media appearances, Stevens met with Butler athletic director Barry Collier and discussed his future. Despite the rampant speculation that Oregon, Wake Forest and Clemson were waiting with bated breath for a chance to lure the 33-year-old Stevens away from his beloved Butler, he wasn't going anywhere. In fact, he never thought twice about leaving.

"My focus was on Butler and I'm lucky Butler wants me to be there," Stevens said. "I love it here. I love where I am and my attention and focus has always been on Butler."

Collier wouldn't get into the specific queries from other schools, but he wouldn't deny that other schools were pursuing Stevens. Locking up Stevens with a 12-year deal allowed Butler to put the speculation to rest.

"There was a lot of stuff out there and a lot of speculation," Stevens said. "But at the end of the day, what was the most important thing to me was being around really good people, and Butler has good people in the administration and really good people on our staff. We've got really good people on our team. It's a huge win-win for me there."

Collier wouldn't get into the specifics of the financial details, and Butler can do only so much in terms of salary, but you shouldn't be surprised if Butler pushes Stevens closer to the high six-figures as much as it can over the length of the contract.

"I knew Brad wanted to be at Butler," Collier said. "I felt confident that we would reach an agreement to make both parties happy going forward. We know we've got a special thing going with our program and I think we've found a way for him to be our coach long-term, and we're very grateful."

Collier spoke after the national championship at Lucas Oil Stadium about making the program even more successful by working on enhancing aspects like travel, facilities, etc. One thing that the Bulldogs have already done is upgrade the schedule and make Butler extremely marketable, much like Gonzaga and Xavier.

Butler's marquee event next season is in the Diamond Head Classic Dec. 22, 23 and 25. The Bulldogs and Baylor, two teams that should be in the preseason top 10, headline the event with Florida State, Mississippi State, Utah, San Diego, Hawaii and a team to be determined, possibly from the Pac-10. Baylor may lose Ekpe Udoh to the NBA draft, but newcomer Perry Jones should replace him without much of a drop-off.

"It will be a monster tournament," Stevens said.

The Bulldogs are also hosting Stanford and will travel to Xavier and Siena; they have three more games to fill, with two likely being at home. Stevens said he'd like to get a marquee game on a neutral court or on the road. One that is being discussed is a possible rematch with Duke at the Meadowlands in early December. Duke has a set date to play a game and Meadowlands officials are still working on an opponent.

Playing in the national title game has allowed Butler to be in play for that type of marquee nonconference game. Some teams that have won just one tourney game in recent years, like Siena, have had a harder time getting games the following season.

"We were like that in the early 2000s," said Stevens. "Now the public perception has changed."

Losing to Butler on a neutral court or on the road won't be viewed as anything less than a quality game. That's in large part because of how Butler played in the Final Four and because the Bulldogs should be just as loaded for another run. The only departure outside of the two seniors -- Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes -- could be stud Hayward.

Hayward has until April 25 to declare for the NBA draft and, if he declares, until May 8 to withdraw from the draft.

"I'm not sure what he's thinking," Stevens said. "I'm trying to respect him, like all our players. They need time away, need to decompress."

Stevens said he would meet with the team Friday and then go on the road recruiting for the few days he can in April.

"I'll support him either way and want Gordon to do what's best for him," Stevens said. If Hayward returns, the Bulldogs will be a preseason top 10. "We'll probably be in people's eyes. But we were top 10 this past season, but in my opinion, we were 190th in November and December. We weren't very good then. So we want to have a great offseason, a great fall prep and then November and December."

When the grind starts again and the chase to get to Houston begins.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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