UCLA has made it no secret their desired replacement for former men’s basketball head coach Ben Howland is Butler head coach Brad Stevens. Despite expressing his intent to remain the head coach of the Bulldogs, ESPN reports the Bruins are heavily pursuing Stevens as their top target.
Neither Butler, coach Stevens or UCLA have commented on the situation of late, but the Bruins appear to be less heart-set on hiring a coach with NBA experience. Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart was also being pursued by UCLA to fill the vacancy, but has since been removed from the short list since announcing a contract extension through the 2023 season.
Stevens is now far-and-away the top choice for the Bruins. If UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero could sign Stevens, rest assured he would want it to last.
Butler may not have the clout of UCLA, and Indianapolis falls far short of the lure of Los Angeles, but Stevens has shown he can win, and recruit, with the best of coaches in college basketball. Stevens led Butler to the national championship game in 2010 and again in 2011.
Many schools actively pursued Stevens last season to fill their own coaching vacancies, but none were able to stop him from signing a contract extension through the 2021-22 season. Stevens reportedly makes $1 million a season with the new contract and could see that number triple if he accepted is interested in UCLA. Oregon, Wake Forest and Clemson were all rumored to have interest in Stevens in 2010.
North Carolina State head coach, and former UCLA assistant, Mark Gottfried was also a top target for the Bruins before the school learned about his $3.75 million contract buyout.
Stevens doesn’t have any NBA experience and doesn’t seem like the type of person who would be interested in coaching in the center of the national spotlight. However, with the size of the proposed contract by UCLA, and the opportunity to become one of the greatest college basketball coaches of his generation, Stevens may have a decision to make soon enough.
John Engel is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. John works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in addition to Rant Sports. Follow: @engelsportsguy.