When Butler started the season 4-4, coach Brad Stevens looked to his coaching friends for help.
He was in uncharted territory. He'd never come off a national championship appearance and been so highly rated to start the year. The Bulldogs played a tough early schedule, which included Louisville, Duke and Xavier, and it wasn't handling the pressure or hype very well.
So Stevens turned to Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose Gators had played in back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007. Little did Donovan know that his pep talk would not only get Butler out of its funk -- it's gone on to win 23 of its last 28 games -- but that it would also ultimately help the Bulldogs knock the Gators out of the NCAA tournament.
Butler defeated Florida 74-71 in overtime to notch their second consecutive trip to the Final Four.
"I was just asking him what it was like to go and come off of those national championship game appearances and he's had a lot more than we have," Stevens said in the interview with CBS that was taped Friday. "Certainly there's something to be said about a person who's been through that and understands what that target feels like. "
Neither Donovan nor Stevens got into any of the specifics of the conversation and I doubt that Donovan pointed out any of the current weaknesses of his program that could have helped Butler to Saturday's win. But it's interesting that what was an innocuous conversation in December ended up playing a pivotal role in Butler's confidence heading into the tournament and the game, and probably gave Stevens enough confidence to help lead his team to yet another improbable win.
"My responsibility as a coach is to try and help other people," Donovan said during the interview. "I love talking back and forth. I don't know if I helped Brad or not. He's done a great job with his team."
- Brad Stevens