Cool Cat Stevens: Model for Future
INDIANAPOLIS -- There on the elevated hardwood, a few feet from where I sat, Brad Stevens wasn't fazed that his team was struggling to make shots. Rather, he just smiled. He'd occasionally turn around after another Michigan State basket and another Butler miss and talk to his players, always calmly and never with the least bit of anger or anxiety in a state where Bobby/Bob Knight ruled as a foul-mouthed madman for three decades.
"If we can guard some people, we'll be OK," Stevens would say in his clodhopper loafers and a suit one size too big, still smiling as if he knew the ordained outcome.
And, of course, Butler would be OK in the national semifinals, as the Bulldogs were against Syracuse and Kansas State and the other teams they've beaten on a 25-game winning streak that seems preposterous but now is as real as the bricks on the Lucas Oil Stadium facade. The Bulldogs will play Duke in the most improbable NCAA title game in eons, right down the road from their quivering campus, and for those who think the dream ends Monday night, consider the poised comportment of Stevens and why it would be foolish to doubt him now when the cool quotient has taken him so far.
"I think it affects us directly," said guard Ronald Nored, amazed at how his coach never sweats. "We see him like that, and he's our leader, he's our example. So I think under any circumstance, any situation, we're the same way because he trusts in us, believes in us. There's no need to get rattled in certain situations. I think that translates directly to us."
"He leads, we follow," forward Willie Veasley said. "When those big runs come, Coach calls a timeout and says a few calm words. Then he says he believes in us, loves us, and that we're going to win the game."