Jan. 16, 2013
Nicole Auerbach of USA Today Sports wrote the following story about the Atlantic 10's newest coaches, Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart.(cover photo AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Brad Stevens is used to hearing his name mentioned along with Shaka Smart's, and when it happens, he does something college basketball coaches don't normally do when asked about competitors: He gushes.
"He'd be a blast to play for; there's no doubt about it," Stevens said. "I've known him since we were both assistants -- he was at Akron and I was at Butler. We'd sit on the road together, and I've gotten to know him more as time has gone on. I have always a great deal of respect for him. He's incredibly intelligent.
"He has the best pulse on his team as anybody that I know as far as, like, he's always thinking about how to make the next guy on his team feel better and play better."
Though they had met frequently on the road, the two young coaches -- Stevens is 36, Smart 35 -- had a more public meeting in 2011, on the court in the Final Four. Stevens' Bulldogs were an eight seed; Smart's Rams began their run in the First Four, essentially an NCAA tournament play-in game.
And until it came time to face Smart, Stevens rooted for VCU.
"I am No. 1 employed by Butler and try like heck to make this the best program it can be," said Stevens, in his sixth year as the Bulldogs' coach. "No. 2, (I'm) a fan that roots for underdogs, just like everybody else."