FORT WAYNE – Part of Brad Stevens’ charm has been that he’s remained humble.
Despite taking tiny Butler University, undergraduate enrollment of 4,034, to the NCAA men’s basketball championship game – twice – he has shooed away suitors and remained loyal to the Bulldogs.
His appreciation for the state of Indiana has included an admiration of the philanthropic Mad Anthonys, who honored Stevens with their Red Coat as Hoosier Celebrity of the Year. He was presented the attire at a banquet Saturday night at Memorial Coliseum, in advance of the Charity Classic for Children, a golf tournament today and Monday at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.
It’s absolutely an honor to be invited here, said Stevens, 35, who has a 139-40 record with the Bulldogs.
I’m obviously familiar with (the Mad Anthonys), having grown up in the state of Indiana, and knowing a lot of Fort Wayne people that are tied to Butler. It is an honor, and obviously it’s supporting a great cause.
The Mad Anthonys, business leaders and professionals from northeast Indiana, raise funds for the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House, which provides lodging and support services for the families of children undergoing pediatric and neonatal treatment.
Last year, they raised $115,000.
Having celebrities like Stevens take part helps get that done, but his message was to never stop working, in basketball or anything else.
You just try to do your job well the next day and that’s what we try to do, said Stevens, whose team lost 61-59 to Duke in the 2010 title game at Indianapolis and 53-41 to Connecticut in the 2011 game at Houston.
Not every day has been perfect but there have been a lot of good ones and a lot of work that has gone on to make those good ones possible.
A native of Zionsville who left a job with Eli Lilly to join the Butler staff as coordinator of basketball operations in 2000-01, he said teamwork and defense are the keys to success in the NCAA.
You look at any championship or any group of teams competing for a championship, they will be teams first and foremost. Very rarely do you get there with a collection of individuals. You may have great individual players, but they’ve bought in. They’ve become a team, Stevens said. And the other part is, without a doubt, if you look at the 10 most efficient offenses in the country and the 10 most efficient defenses, the defenses are the ones moving on. You have to be able to guard somebody.
Butler is moving from the Horizon League, where Stevens has won four regular-season titles, to the Atlantic 10 this season.
He envisions that conference becoming one of the top four in the nation, with it getting as many as five at-large bids for the NCAA tournament next year.
Stevens isn’t a stranger to Fort Wayne. His former players include Grant Leiendecker of Homestead and Marcus Nellems of Northrop.
We recruit the state of Indiana, so if there are people we are interested in this area, we try to recruit them, no doubt about it, Stevens said.
Now he can do it with a familiar Red Coat.