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COLUMN

What is clear about Brad Stevens' situation with UCLA? It's a tough call

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For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.

Butler coach keeping quiet amid conflicting reports

Friday, March 29, 2013 - 12:37 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – I would estimate that half of what you hear either reported or just tweeted in regards to college coaching searches are lies. The remainder of the speculation is simply untrue. Trying to decipher the information, piece together carefully-worded phrases, formulating a timeline, and reading into non-statements can lead you nowhere near the actual truth.

With that in mind, I do believe that I have been accurate in my assessment since writing a column on Sunday that Butler's Brad Stevens is giving - or at least gave - serious consideration to the interest being shown him by UCLA. And Stevens' actions this week have done nothing but enhance my original thoughts that he would do such.

The coveted coach has reportedly been presented a once-in-a-career opportunity, he comprehends the magnitude of that, and I'm sure it is weighing on him.

Yes, I've been told by many members of the Bulldog Nation that their favorite coach is a conservative Indiana kid that won't be swayed by money, Hollywood, 72-degree weather in January, the mountains and the beach.

Sorry Bulldogs fans, everybody is swayed by those things.

If indeed Stevens had no interest in the UCLA situation, his “no comment” that he told the Indianapolis Star on Thursday would've been a “no way” much earlier in the week. He's interested. It's UCLA for God's sake, he's very interested.

Multiple Los Angeles media outlets have reported that he is heavily involved in the search process.

“If you are wondering who the next coach at UCLA is going to be, there's a good chance that we know,” Fox Sports West's Jon Crispin reported on Thursday. “It's probably going to be Brad Stevens.”

Now, to put Butler fans' hearts at ease, there are some positive signs for them to cling (ever so desperately) to.

Crispin went on to state that “We are hearing that Brad Stevens is in Westwood (Thursday).” Yet, the Indianapolis Star reported that it spoke with Stevens at his Hinkle Fieldhouse office on Thursday. It's possible that both of those statements are accurate, but not likely.

Stevens has also agreed to an interview regarding the 2012-13 Butler season with me on Monday. In addition, he spent time each of the past two days speaking with others in the business about openings on his staff – his Butler staff - in wake of Bulldogs associate head coach Matthew Graves accepting the head coaching position at South Alabama on Monday.

Even Stevens is sending out positive vibes to Bulldogs fans.

“Love walking thru Hinkle in the morning ... Anxious to get started on our spring workouts next week," Stevens tweeted Friday.

So all of that information does lead me to believe that the coach hasn't spent too much time this week scanning Hermosa Beach properties on Realtor.com.

But the fact of the matter is Stevens is (or at least was) seriously interested in the position, because it can be a job like no other in the country. And Stevens is the man for the daunting task.

The culture of Southern California prep basketball can be dirty to say the least. There is a reason that past Bruin coaches – even John Wooden (blasphemy, I know, but accurate) – haven't stayed squeaky clean, while guiding the Bruins program. Some of those coaches embraced that aspect of the job, while others fought it, and ultimately lost that battle (recently fired Ben Howland, for example).

If Stevens is anything, he is extremely intelligent. He would handle the nuances of that morass in the most proper and ethical way possible. I'm not sure exactly how, I just know that he would.

If Stevens can do anything as a coach, it is to get players to buy into the team concept. While it is true that it is much easier to convince Ronald Nored and Matt Howard to be unselfish than the nation's top recruit, who can't even tell the truth about his age, I don't doubt that Stevens would get the right guys at UCLA and they'd play the right way.

If Stevens accepts the job, what you'll see is a UCLA squad filled with smart, disciplined, talented kids from the West Coast who believe in the program.

If Stevens accepts the job, what you'll see is a UCLA squad that competes for national championships on a semi-regular basis.

Stevens is intelligent enough to know the possibilities that lie ahead if he makes the most difficult – yet challenging – decision of his career. That is precisely why we are all waiting on his next move.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.