• Basketball is His Business

    June 30, 2010 No comments

    Butler coach and former Eli Lilly employee Brad Stevens says the similarities between hoops and business are many

    By Mike Beas | Hendricks County Business Leader

    College basketball has spent 119 years categorized as a game first and a business a distant second. Be that as it may, anyone whose livelihood includes a mid-court stripe, two backboards and a soundtrack of squealing high-tops is likely to sing you a somewhat different fight song.

    Butler University men’s coach Brad Stevens, whose Bulldogs elevated themselves from respected mid-major to household-name status fol- lowing the program’s pulse-accelerating dash to runner-up status in the recent 2010 NCAA Tournament, understands from experience that basketball and business indeed are one in the same.

    Stevens, who was in Plainfield the morning of May 5 as the speaker at the annual Breakfast of Champions at Primo West, immersed himself in all things Xs and Os starting with one season as a Butler volunteer coach and six as a Bulldogs assistant under former mentors Thad Matta and Todd Lickliter.

    However, his first nine months in the work world came in marketing at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis.

    To some, Stevens might have been living the life, but it wasn’t his life. A star player at Zionsville High School and later DePauw University, he missed basketball to the point of having his life’s passion trump conventional thinking. Stevens listened to his heart, then followed it. The rest is history.

    “I was probably thinking of coaching before I even got there,” remembers Stevens, 33. “It was hard. It was really hard because you’re leaving a good solid foundation financially to be part of the team again, but the people at Lilly were great to me.”

    Uniquely qualified to speak as both a business- man and coach, Stevens’ experience at the pharmaceutical giant, albeit brief, served to benefit him greatly in his efforts to further build the Butler name and brand.

    “What people don’t realize is how much business goes into coaching. The daily marketing of the program, selling recruits on Butler. Those are things you are doing in the business world,” says Stevens. “Contracts. Scheduling. Certainly it is an all-consuming business you are running.”

    At the moment, business is good. The aforementioned tournament success placed more people on the Butler University bandwagon than during any time in school history. The articulate Stevens, an Economics major and Dean’s List student during his DePauw days, is a sought-after public speaker; sales of Bulldogs-themed merchandise have never been better.

    The Butler Way is Stevens’ passion. It’s what he believes in and what he pitches. Yet in business, be it multibillion-dollar conglomerate or a one-per- son startup from home, the coach insists focus- ing on details, being progressive in one’s thinking, having a desire to move forward and surrounding one’s self with quality individuals are among the more durable building blocks.

    And, of course, there is the product itself.

    “The most important thing in sales is a good product, something people want to buy into,” says Stevens. “What we want to be at Butler is a team, and sometimes that’s hard to sell because we live in an era where the individual is glorified.”

    Not at Butler. Not on Stevens’ watch. Thus, the Butler Way makes for a good business blueprint both inside and outside of Hinkle Fieldhouse.

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