Brad Stevens: Good Coach from Indiana, Not John Wooden 2.0

Andy Lyons

Rumors are floating that Brad Stevens is on UCLA's short-list of coaching candidates (which should also include Shaka Smart, unless UCLA's administration is completely brain-dead), and we take a look at one of the less informed talking points about the Indiana native: that he is John Wooden 2.0.

Well, now that it is official that Howland has been fired, despite Chianti Dan and his brain-dead minions firing off a panicked press release denying that Howland has been let go earlier (kind of like how Chianti said he wasn't going to fire Rick after Southern Cal beat us down 50-0 on Saturday, only to turn around and fire Rick on Monday). In other words, we got a completely f**ked up firing of Howland, which is sure to be followed by a totally screwed up coaching search. The only way to avoid the latter? Fire Dan Guerrero.

But I digress. As we enter the final death throes of the Ben Howland era in Westwood, rumors have surfaced that UCLA's short-list includes Brad Stevens, among others. Logically, Shaka Smart and Billy Donovan are also on that list, but of course, that would assume Chianti Dan and his goon squad are capable of logical thought, so who knows who else UCLA is looking at to replace Ben. However, with word that Stevens might be in the mix to inherit Coach's program in Westwood, the lazy hacks in the media are sure to turn to a lazy narrative: that Brad Stevens, a "small-town Indiana coach" is basically John Wooden 2.0. And, while Stevens is from Indiana, and he is a pretty good basketball coach, he is definitely NOT John Wooden 2.0. Let's be blunt: there will never again be another Coach John Wooden. The man was a once-ever legend: who he was as a person, let alone what he accomplished on the hardwood, will never be duplicated.

But, of course, that isn't going to stop lazy hack journalists from making the comparison, if for no other reason that both men are from Indiana and both former basketball players turned coaches. In 2010, when Stevens first burst on to the national scene, Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel made the lazy connection. And it didn't take long for the internet to begin making the lazy, uninformed connection between the Wizard of Westwood and Butler's current head coach. And naturally, if Brad Stevens does leave Butler for UCLA, you can expect to see the following in the Los Angeles Times' sport section the morning after the announcement, courtesy of Bill Plashcke:

He comes from a small Indiana town, where he learned to love the game of basketball.

He played high school and college basketball before becoming a young head coach in Indiana.

His players love him.

He pays attention to the smallest details in building a program.

He has a certain humble personality that reflects his hardworking Midwestern roots.

No, it's not John Wooden. It's Brad Stevens, UCLA's new Wizard of Westwood.

Bet money on it: Ol' Bill Splashme will run that kind of garbage within days of Stevens coming to Westwood, if it happens. Actually, Bill, since I already have your one-sentence-as-a-paragraph style down, why don't you just give me your paycheck for the week you "wrote" this article on Stevens?

This is the lazy narrative you will certainly see from the hacks, such as Plaschke, and the various clueless blowhards at ESPN. Never mind that Wooden came from an actual small farming town in Indiana in the 1920s (Martinsville) and Stevens comes a comfortable-to-affluent Indianapolis suburb that is more akin to an Indiana version of Lafayette or Diamond Bar. Or that everything about college basketball is different than Wooden's era: the rise and prominence of the shady one-and-done AAU circuit, the insane TV exposure, the expansion of the NCAA tournament, just to name a few. If I was Brad Stevens, I'd take a long pause before accepting an offer from UCLA. Not because your boss (Chianti Dan) is an incompetent bureaucrat more concerned with protecting his paycheck than seeing the Athletic Department's programs succeed. And yes, it's the best job you could ask for in college basketball: the bluest of the blue-blood programs. But, Brad Stevens will have an obstacle that Billy Donovan and Shaka Smart won't: the unfair, unrealistic, and uninformed comparisons to John Wooden.

Of course, the more intelligent UCLA fans will see through the superficial comparison. They'll realize that John Wooden will never happen again, and will set a reasonable benchmark for UCLA basketball: a national championship (or two, if we're being selfish) per decade. In other words, the expectations will be the exact same as they are at other elite programs, like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina, which all expect their programs to bring up at least one title per decade, to always be in the NCAA tournament, and to make a regular run deep into March Madness on a regular basis. None of the reasonable, intelligent Bruin faithful will demand back-to-back undefeated seasons and a decade of nothing but national titles. But, if you relied on just the lazy hack journalists, who advance to "unreasonable UCLA fan" narrative and the "Stevens is the next Wooden" narrative, you'd never know that.

So, if you expect Brad Stevens to come to Westwood and for the Bruins to replicate the Wooden glory years, you've been smoking so much, you'd make Cheech and Chong blush. So, yes, Brad Stevens would be a great candidate to replace the now-departed Ben Howland, but don't let the lazy media get you frothed up into believing he will usher in a new era of John Wooden like dominance of college basketball, because John Wooden was a once-ever intergalatic treasure that can never be replaced.

So, now that Ben is gone, let's see what develops on the Brad Stevens front, especially since Butler is already done dancing in this year's March Madness.

GO BRUINS

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