INDIANAPOLIS – All was still inside the expansive arena, with the exception of the air moved by an industrial-sized fan in the corner of the court.
Construction equipment meant for the restoration of Hinkle Fieldhouse sat idle while the hallways were filled with just a passing worker or athlete.
Friday figured to be like this at the iconic Butler University basketball venue considering it was the day following the Fourth of July-another holiday in itself for man.One of the few things that broke the silence was The one thing broke the silence was a television located in the sports information office, turned on around 11 A.M.
Immediately it was tuned to ESPN 2 and first a picture of a green background with a lineup of empty chairs appeared. A few minutes later, the subjects of the news conference came out-including the man with the black suit and the green tie.
Brad Stevens had arrived. He just 945 miles away from this particular television set in a venue he knew all too well.
“I’m used to seeing him in the Navy blue tie,” said Butler forward Khyle Marshall, who watched the news conference away from the fieldhouse. “To see him in the green tie, it just seems like it doesn’t match.”
The fashion change represents the Boston Celtics, the iconic NBA franchise who hired Butler’s beloved Stevens on Wednesday-just two days after the school officially joined the Big East Conference. Stevens got the call from the Celtics 48 hours following the official news conference by Butler for their new affiliation and by 5:30 P.M. that day, a press release announcing his departure was sent out.
“Shocker” is how The Indianapolis Star described the move in bold print on their sports page on Thursday morning and perhaps that’s how many felt over the next day. Once Stevens was shown on television with the Celtics background behind him, the whirlwind of a week began to truly set in.
“It’s kinda the reality, I guess, that truly hits you that yes, he’s gone,” said former Butler Play-by-Play man and current Director of Marketing Joe Gentry. “You see the empty chairs there, you don’t know if it’s a Billy Donovan, ‘Hey, I’ve had second thoughts’ back when he was with the Magic.
“But Brad was Brad, and that was the neat thing.”
It also entails the confused emotions that have swirled around the Butler program since Stevens took the job in Boston. For one, many are sad to lose a coach who took the Bulldogs’ basketball program to unprecedented heights since taking the job in 2007. Two Final Fours were reached, each resulting in an appearance in the national championship game, and 166 wins were accumulated as the squad jumped from the Horizon League to the Atlantic Ten and now the Big East.
Gordon Hayward was a part of 59 of those victories when he was at Butler for two season ending in 2010 and he chose to remember what Stevens had done rather than lament that he’s gone.
“I think first and foremost your just excited for him. It’s a heck of an opportunity,” said Hayward of Stevens joining the Celtics. “It’s something that he maybe wanted to do-well obviously wanted to do-go to the next level and compete there.
“It’s sad that he’s leaving Butler for everything that he did but Butler will be in good hands.”
That will be not only up to the next coach who takes Stevens spot but also the players who remain behind, including Marshall. Those Bulldogs will be the first to enter play in the Big East and will face perhaps the toughest night-in-and-night-out competition of their basketball lives with the move to the major conference.
Marshall, who will be a senior in 2013-2014, says the most important way to channel the emotion of the coach leaving is to continue to grow what he began.
“Of course you are going to be sad but, you know, it’s just something you’ve got to put into your mind, just to continue what he’s done with this program,” said Marshall. “The program’s not going to die. Its our job, us 16 guys continue the tradition that he brought to Butler basketball over the past six years.
“Just continue from there.”
When Hinkle Fieldhouse is a little louder and the shockwave of what happens this week is as quiet as a post-holiday arena.