Immediately after the bombshell announcement Brad Stevens was Boston-bound, Butler athletic director Barry Collier strongly hinted the Bulldogs’ next coach will be someone with ties to the program.
He told USA Today the most important quality he’s looking for in Stevens’ successor “is someone who really understands Butler and how we have been successful.”
Assuming Collier’s mindset doesn’t change, that significantly limits the pool of candidates he’ll consider.
[Related: Brad Stevens' jump to NBA a low-risk move]
One strong possibility is Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan, a former Butler player and a rising star in the coaching profession. Jordan was on Butler’s staff from 2003-07 and Todd Lickliter’s Iowa staff from 2007-2010 before joining John Beilein at Michigan and helping lead the Wolverines to the national title game last April.
Another potential choice is Butler assistant coach Brandon Miller, who rejoined his alma mater in April after stints under Thad Matta at Ohio State and John Groce at Illinois. Miller starred at point guard for Butler from 2000-03 and served as an assistant coach under Stevens during the 2007-08 season.
A source with knowledge of the situation said Thursday that Jordan and Miller have emerged as early favorites to succeed Stevens. The source also said former Butler associate head coach Matthew Graves is not a candidate and will remain at South Alabama. Graves accepted South Alabama’s head coaching job just months ago, presumably because he was convinced Stevens wasn’t leaving anytime soon.
[Related: A sad day for college basketball]
Whoever replaces Stevens will have big shoes to fill. The 36-year-old led Butler to a 166-49 record in seven seasons, amassing two national title game appearances, four regular season league titles and three conference tournament championships.
The new hire will come at an especially critical juncture for Butler with the Bulldogs transitioning from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East. Butler needs a coach capable of continuing the ascent that began under Collier, Matta and Lickliter and accelerated the past few years under Stevens.
It’s likely Collier will have to move quickly selecting a new coach simply because of the awkward timing of Stevens’ departure. With the July evaluation period set to begin next week, Butler needs a new coach in place as soon as possible to avoid falling behind in recruiting and to reassure potential prospects the program remains stable even without Stevens.
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