Monday, March 29, 2010

How Brad Stevens Got His Dream Job

It's going to be hard to think about much besides basketball in Indianapolis this week. We already knew we'd be immersed in the Final Four hullaballoo by virtue of the fact that March Madness, as it often does, ends here. But little did we suspect we'd be cheering for the home team--the Butler Bulldogs--as well.

It's an irresistible story: A small school (4,500 students) led by a young coach (33-year-old Brad Stevens) defies the odds and makes it to the NCAA Final Four—just miles from their own campus. The national media has already begun to tire of its own parallels to the movie Hoosiers (part of which, of course, was filmed in Butler's home arena). But perhaps the most fascinating element is the coach himself.

Brad Stevens played high school basketball in Zionsville, where he is still the all-time leading scorer. (My brother-in-law Andrew Hand played on the high school team with him, but I haven't yet managed to parlay that into an introduction.) Brad went on to play basketball in college at DePauw while majoring in business. Upon graduation, he joined Eli Lilly in a marketing capacity. But his heart was still on the basketball court, and he volunteered as a high school coach and also in administrative roles with the Butler team.

Within seven years, he had been hired by Butler and moved up the ranks to head coach. And now, just a few years later, he's led the team to its first-ever Final Four.

I can't help but think of the book I edited, Your Dream Job Game Plan, in which sports agent Molly Fletcher puts forth the five tools you need to get your own dream job:

  • Passionate style
  • Fearlessness
  • A game plan
  • Flawless execution
  • Managing choices

I haven't met Brad, but it's obvious that he used all five of these tools to reach—and excel in—his dream job. Imagine how scary it must have been to give up a secure and lucrative business career for a shot at coaching. He had a passion for basketball, he managed his career choices, he had a plan, and he executed his plan flawlessly. And now all of Indiana is cheering him on as his team faces Michigan State (ironically, Molly's alma mater) in the first game of the Final Four.

Reached for comment this afternoon, Molly had this to say:

Brad Stevens is a “5-tool-plus-some coach." Getting to the final four--as Brad Stevens has done--requires passion, game plans, fearlessness, execution (married with a little luck sometimes). Brad gets it. He is a heck of a x and o coach--but an equally good motivator--and has gelled his guys together to find himself home in Indianapolis living out a dream. But, as a former Spartan, I must add, so has Izzo. Go Green!

Brad and his team are already winners in our eyes, regardless of what happens on Saturday.

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