Less than a week has passed since UCLA fired Ben Howland, and it’s anyone’s guess who will stalk the sidelines at Westwood next season.
Now reports have surfaced that athletic director Dan Guerrero has targeted Butler head coach Brad Stevens, after VCU’s Shaka Smart turned down the job, according to a report from ESPN’s Andy Katz and Peter Yoon.
Smart has instead signed an extension with the Rams through 2023, as reported by SI.com.
Stevens responded to ESPN’s requests for comment by texting: “I am the coach at Butler.”
The 36-year-old also tweeted Friday morning: “Love walking thru Hinkle in the morning…Anxious to get started on our spring workouts next week.”
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That tweet would seem to squelch any other speculation, with Stevens indicating how much he loves the Butler campus and presumably his job.
VCU reportedly tripled Smart’s contract, and while Stevens is signed until the 2021-22 season, Butler may have to offer some kind of pay increase to keep him in Indianapolis.
It was reported by USA Today back in February that Stevens earned nearly $1.2 million during the 2011 calendar year, with a base salary of $767,000, and the rest tied up in bonuses and incentives.
After losing out on Smart, Guerrero may have to go all out to pry the coach that built Butler from the ground up and brought it to two straight national championship games in 2010 and 2011. All that success has now generated Butler's move from the Horizon League to the Big East next season, essentially announcing the Bulldogs transition from mid-major to major conference power.
Since taking over in 2007, Stevens has a 166-49 record, and the Bulldogs have gone to the tournament in five of his six seasons. He was targeted by other programs like Oregon, Wake Forest, and Clemson in 2010, according to ESPN.
UCLA fired Howland after the Bruins again failed to make it out of the tournament’s first weekend since 2008. UCLA last won a national title in 1995.
Howland did make three straight Final Fours in his first five seasons at UCLA, but that didn’t save his job, something Stevens may have to consider if he is contemplating a move out West.
There has been tons of speculation regarding the UCLA vacancy, including one report about a private flight from Los Angeles to Indianapolis, as reported by the Big Lead Thursday. There was no indication of whether Guerrero was on that flight in order to meet with Stevens, but it adds fuel to a fire that may have just begun to burn.