Butler: 'the ideal of amateur athletics'

Dateline: Fri 15 Apr 2011

"The University of Connecticut won the national title on Monday night with an ugly 53-41 win over Butler. But decades from now, few will remember that Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker and a young roster filled with freshmen brought home UConn's third national title in 13 years.

"In fact, UConn's run through the Big East tournament was more memorable, as the Huskies won five games in five days, defeating DePaul, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville. Walker poured in 130 points over the five-day stretch and gave us perhaps the highlight of the season with his ankle-breaking, step-back jumper to beat Pitt as time expired.

"The Huskies' NCAA tourney run seems anticlimactic in comparison, punctuated by perhaps the most unwatchable national title game ever played.

"But in the hearts of many, this tourney will forever be associated with the Bulldogs of Butler, despite their unprecedented brick-fest on Monday. Butler may not be bringing home a championship, but reaching back-to-back national title games has to rank as among one of the most impressive accomplishments in the history of sports.

"For the last two years, Butler's roster hasn't had a single Rivals.com five-star recruit. They've had exactly one four-star recruit in Matt Howard. When they came within a bounce of defeating Duke last year, the Blue Devils featured four five-star recruits and another four four-star recruits. This year, the Huskies boasted two five-star recruits and four four-star recruits.

"What Butler has done with a roster of players that teams like Duke and Connecticut wouldn't even dream of recruiting is nothing short of remarkable. In an age in which people increasingly decry the professionalization of college sports, Butler represents the ideal of amateur athletics.

"The Bulldogs do everything the right way. They play tenacious defense. They fight for every loose ball. They battle for every rebound. They share the ball on offense. Most of all, their players know their roles and always see themselves as part of a larger whole.

"Off the court, the Bulldogs are just as impressive. Over the last six years, Butler's graduation rate was 83 percent, equivalent to Duke and almost three times better than Connecticut's. Matt Howard has a 3.77 GPA, majors in finance and interned at Merrill Lynch last summer. The first thing Ronald Nored did when he came to campus was run for — and win — the position of freshman class president.

"This is a program of excellence, on and off the hardwood. And it is headed by the best coach in the nation (yes, I said it) in Brad Stevens, a 34-year-old man whose youthful looks disguise his steely resolve. No other coach gets as much from his players as Stevens, and his tactical adjustments within games make Butler a nightmarish matchup. In the last two years, Butler has eliminated Florida, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Michigan State, Kansas State and Syracuse, besting famed coaches Billy Donovan, Jamie Dixon, Tom Izzo and Jim Boeheim in the process.

"All of this means that the many of us who want to see David finally slay Goliath should take heart. Butler will be back.

"They'll be back because kids with talent who dream of the NBA but are ignored by the big-time schools will look at Butler's record of success. Gordon Hayward wasn't even looked at by Indiana and is now playing heavy minutes for the Utah Jazz. Shelvin Mack hails from Lexington, Ky., but was never looked at seriously by his beloved Kentucky Wildcats. Mack will be a first-round pick in the NBA draft, either this year or next.

"They'll be back because they will continue to rely on players from the state of Indiana, where basketball is religion and the fundamentals are valued above all else. In fact, with historic powerhouse Indiana on the downswing (Butler has made four Sweet 16s since the last time Indiana made a Sweet 16 in 2002), don't be surprised to see Butler start to get some of the best players in the state that wouldn't have considered the tiny school in the past.

"And they'll be back because Stevens will make sure of it. In four seasons, he has a record of 117-25. That's a winning percentage of 82.4 percent, the second-highest in college basketball history — higher than Coach K, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp and John Wooden. Not bad for a 34-year-old.

"The memories of the last two years for Butler University have been incredible. But there are more to come. And one day, when the shots are falling, Brad Stevens will cut down the nets in the NCAA tournament's final game, and all will be right in the basketball world."

This is from Georgetown University's newspaper; it was sent my way by Karen Gardner, whose husband Mike was formerly the facilities/grounds chief at Butler. They are huge Butler backers -- drove to Texas for the game.

I'm not knowledgable about basketball, but I know the right stuff when it's in my face. This is being published to answer some critics who said, "I am embarrassed for Butler" etc.

Some of us are proud, and this commentary explains why....

Comments

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"I am embarrassed for Butler"
________________

That's just nuts. What Butler has done the past two seasons is just utterly amazing and wonderful.

The Bulldogs are the Milan Indians of this era.

Even if they didn't win the championship game, they are true champions.

2011-04-15 11:07:28

hendy [Member] said:

The championship game was comical for its forehead-slapping over-playing. And if you believe that sportsmanship is all about how you got there, not that you arrived, then Butler did an honorable job. Honor, in the end, has value and high currency. That's the gist of the article, methinks, but is also readily apparent, too.

2011-04-15 11:47:52

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Coach Stevens is remarkable.

But the writer seriously errs on Mack's 2011 NBA prospects. He's not a first-rounder.

Because in the NBA, it's even more about money than the NCAA. They analyze every muscle in your body, every move on tape, every aspect of your game. Mack is very good. He'll play in the NBA whenever he wants. But he's not a first-rounder this year. The draft is deep, and wide.

Gotta love the NBA. Where Kobe can shout-out the faggot catcall, and get little more than a slap on the wrist. Great example for young folks, yes sirree. A hundred large. He farts a hundred large. And did you hear him give that nonpology? He's disgusting.

Mack would add an element of class. To a league that completely lacks class.

2011-04-15 12:02:48

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

TTT. I agree about Mack. But I guess it depends on the financial circumstances of his family. Even early second-rounders can often get pretty healthy signing bonuses.

There were a lot of questions about George Hill (IUPUI) leaving early for the NBA, but things have worked out very well for him. And, he may not be a better player than Mack.

Mack's tournament stats were great, but his overall season stats were not especially outstanding - though he contributed greatly in ways that don't show up on stat sheets.

Of course, selfishly, we Bulldog fans would like to see him return to college next year.

Like you said, TTT, NBA teams will go over him with a fine-toothed comb, so we'll see what happens.

About Bryant, etc.:

Question: I wonder if the official is actually homosexual or if Bryant just uses that obnoxious term generally against people he has an issue with?

I wondered that a few years back when an NFL player used a homophobic term in deriding Bill Parcells.

Are these homophobic terms being used in the culture as general putdowns against even heterosexuals?

Just curious. I'm old and understand increasingly less about current American culture.

Under any circumstances, these terms are disgusting and reflects the ignorance of those who utter them.

2011-04-15 15:50:06

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The term is a gutter reference goy gays, uttered like the old "you're full of shit" or other catcalls. It's rampant in the NBA and NFL. Too many of those fools don't have "edit" buttons.

And frankly, now that I think of it, too many of them play in stadia we taxpayers constructed. You'd think they'd have better manners. Alas, I hope for too much.

2011-04-15 17:08:15

hendy [Member] said:

Goy vs Yid? Manners? This is professional sports. The object is moolah. Much moolah.

2011-04-15 21:19:13

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Goy was a typo. Yikes. iPhone sux.

2011-04-16 08:20:28

Jason [unverified] said:

Learned a new one today: stadia.

This is a great article. I've always despised the infamous "Bristol bias" and I nearly spit out my coffee listening to ESPN on the radio one morning about how UConn was the bigger story in the tournament this year. I can think of a lot of big stories surrounding UConn, but I don't think any of them have anything nice to say.

I'm hearing now that NFL players are taking out loans upwards of 30% just to pay bills during the lockout. I think we'll be hearing the same thing from the NBA here in a few years.

A fool and his money are soon parted. Shelvin Mack will be just fine.

2011-04-16 13:13:48

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