Butler follows a familiar pattern in hiring LaVall Jordan as head coach

LaVall Jordan is Butler’s choice to replace Chris Holtmann. (AP)
LaVall Jordan is Butler’s choice to replace Chris Holtmann. (AP)

The runner-up in Butler’s previous coaching search finally landed the job he coveted most.

Milwaukee coach LaVall Jordan, a former Butler player and assistant, has reached an agreement in principle to become his alma mater’s next head coach, ESPN.com and other outlets reported.  Jordan previously interviewed for the job that instead went to Brandon Miller four years ago.

Jordan continues Butler’s pattern of hiring basketball coaches with longstanding ties to the program. Chris Holtmann, Miller, Brad Stevens, Todd Lickliter and Thad Matta each spent time on the Bulldogs’ staff before being promoted to head coach.

The connection between Jordan and Butler dates back nearly two decades to when the standout guard played for athletic director Barry Collier and led the Bulldogs to three NCAA bids from 1998-2001.  Jordan later spent four years on Lickliter’s Butler staff from 2003-2007 before stints as an assistant at Iowa and Michigan.

In his lone season as head coach of rebuilding Milwaukee, the Panthers finished the regular season with a dismal 8-23 record before embarking on a memorable run in the Horizon League tournament. Had Milwaukee defeated Northern Kentucky in the title game to capture an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, Jordan’s team would have set the record for the most losses by a team in the field.

In addition to his longstanding relationship with Collier, Jordan’s time away from Butler was an asset to his candidacy. He has a season of head coaching experience at Milwaukee and a history of recruiting well at the high-major level at Michigan.

None of Butler’s other candidates were quite so well-rounded. Terry Johnson has been part of the Butler staff for 12 years, Ryan Pedon was the top recruiter on the Butler staff the past few years and Micah Shrewsberry was an assistant coach for Brad Stevens at Butler and the Boston Celtics.

Jordan replaces Holtmann, who left for Ohio State last week. Hired at a critical junction for Butler after Miller’s disappointing debut season ended with him taking a medical leave of absence, Holtmann stabilized the program, took the Bulldogs to three consecutive NCAA tournaments and ensured a successful transition to the Big East.

It will be Jordan’s goal to build on Holtmann’s success and continue Butler’s recent history of making shrewd coaching hires. His first task will be hiring assistants while trying to retain as many members as possible of the decorated five-man recruiting class Holtmann signed.

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