“Goals are important. Having a vision is important. Commitment to the process is more important,” Butler men’s basketball coach Brad Stevens told the crowd at the fourth annual Don Meyer Evening of Excellence on April 14.
And Stevens knows the significance behind not just winning, but figuring out what it takes to win.
Character, Commitment to Details, Performance and Results – those are the levels of Stevens’ pyramid he has used each of the five years of his head coaching career at Butler to help his players remember to keep their priorities straight. In those five years, he’s managed to get his team two Final Four appearances.
“You have to simplify things, but have to do a lot of work to before you can simplify things,” the two-time Horizon Coach of the Year said.
With guidance from two notable coaches, Thad Matta and Todd Licklighter, Stevens learned he had to “think like a head coach every day,” and to “just be yourself.”
On the bottom level of the pyramid, Stevens listed character as the most important attribute.
“You can be humble, but you need to balance that with courage,” Stevens said.
He said there have been seasons where the team has lost players to the NBA draft or graduation, and the younger players were not ready to “take the reins.” While the players may not have been physically or mentally prepared, near the season’s end, Stevens said the same players were playing with a courage that allowed them to “not care about anything and give everything.”
The second level is preparation and attention to detail.
“In basketball, we look at it like it is life by inches or death by inches,” Stevens said. “There are 150 possessions per game. It may be one or two possessions one way or the other.”
To illustrate his point, Stevens highlighted Butler’s 2011-2012 season and the team’s record of 22-15. If the team had won every game where they were down by one point or better with 12 minutes to go, their record would have been 25-6. On the flip side, if the Bulldogs had lost every game that they won by four points or less, they would have had a record of 12-19.
Again, building a foundation of character is critical for this level because, as Stevens said, “every ounce of character has to be going the right direction.”
The third level of Stevens’ pyramid is Performance, and as he discussed this level, he stressed the importance of “doing your job.”
Stevens learned the value behind taking care of his responsibilities soon after college while working as a marketing associate at Eli Lilly and Company.
“A person grabbed me that was a director there and said, ‘Hey just do your job to the best of your ability everyday and let the rest take care of itself,’” Stevens said.
The advice stuck with him, and though he now carries a playbook instead of a briefcase, he passes those words of wisdom along to the players he coaches.
“The task is the same no matter the audience,” the Indiana native said. “The goal is the same. If you are doing your job to the help the team win, you can focus more.”
The last part of his pyramid of success is Results. Stevens said the world places winning above all else, but it is at the top of the pyramid because it should be the smallest priority for a successful team.
“You can barely fit results in there,” said Stevens. “There are 347 teams trying to do the same thing. Everyone wants to be the last one standing.”
Of course, Stevens said that beyond the catchy memory devices, the best thing coaches can do is “invest in people in the program.”
“Be sure to care about the work and do everything you can to promote character, pay attention to details, expect great performance and let the results take care of themselves,” he said, wrapping up his keynote address.
- Whitney Kiihnl was named female athlete of the year, receiving the James R. Byers Award. “I am blessed with the opportunity to play here at Lipscomb,” said the senior softball pitcher.
- Justin Glenn was awarded male athlete of the year, also receiving a James R. Byers Award. “The core values and life lessons I’ve learned at this university whether athletic or academic will help me the rest of my life,” said the senior center for the Bisons basketball team.
- Athletic director Philip Hutcheson announced that Lipscomb will put $3 million into renovating Allen Arena over the next five years. The renovations will include a larger lobby and hall of fame room.
- Hutcheson also recognized former women’s basketball coach and newly named associate athletic director Frank Bennett. He told a story about talking to a parent who had raised three college athletes and whose daughter was then playing for Coach Bennett. The father told Hutcheson that Bennett was “the only coach that my daughter has ever had who I have never questioned if he had anything but the best intentions for her career.”
- James C. Allen, the namesake of Allen Arena, announced that a movie about Don Meyer’s life and accomplishments is currently in pre-production. Much of the shooting for the film will take place on Lipscomb’s campus.
- Lumination talked to Coach Stevens before his address for a one-on-one interview.