Butler's Gordon Hayward threw a closing buzzer, half-court, long shot against Duke last night. It was oh-so-close. But when Butler coach Brad Stevens threw caution to the wind 10 years ago, it turns out it was a slam dunk.
I tuned in for only the last five minutes of the NCAA tournament final. So, I didn't hear Jim Nantz mention earlier in the broadcast the blogworthy backstory of Butler coach Brad Stevens. Fortunately, my colleague Jane Wellswas watching and listening at the time and she tweetedthe nugget to my attention.
Indianapolis' Butler recruited Stevens out of Indianapolis'Eli Lilly
, which had recruited Stevens straight out of Indiana's DePauw University.
Stevens started at LLY in 1999, but he didn't stay there very long. He worked at the drugmaker's headquarters for less than a year as a marketing associate, which a spokesman says means Stevens might have done strategy, research, support, promotion, financial stuff, etc. Stevens is reportedly a math whiz. The woman who hired, mentored and befriended Stevens at Lilly is apparently out of the country and wasn't available to fill me in on all the details.
ESPN.com quotes DePauw coach Bill Fenlon who had encouraged Stevens to leave behind the cushy confines of the pharmaceutical industry and give Butler basketball a shot. "If you do it and it doesn't work out, Eli Lilly isn't going anywhere. You're only 24 years old," Fenlon says he told Stevens at the time.
Stevens, of course, took his former coach's advice.
He recently told another reporter, "As I've grown older, I appreciate what I had at Lilly even more than I did back then. It's not like life was bad. It was just one of those things where I wanted to take a shot and see what happens."
Stevens eventually replaced Todd Lickliter as Butler's head coach. If he had stayed at Lilly, who knows? Maybe someday, as fate would have it, (and how else do you explain the uncanny similarity between the two uncommon names?) he would've replaced a guy who goes by Lechleiter.
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