If you would have told me that three years ago, when I first decided to attend Butler University that our basketball team would have reached the Final Four my junior year, I would have told you to take a hike! A really long hike to think about what you just told me. Don't get me wrong from the second I came to Butler I fell in love with the basketball program because it was unlike any athletic program I had ever seen and it was starkly different than what I was use to, and saw on TV. Growing up I was a fan of the University of Cincinnati bearcats. I cheered on young men tattooed from head to toe and watched a coach (whom I respect) be caught for a DUI and be so intense and angry that he eventually gave himself a heart attack. More importantly the graduation rate of the players was atrocious.
But the second I was around the Butler basketball program I finally was able to be proud of a team for not just winning games but transcendently for the entire program's integrity. In an era where coaches like John Calipari are having past NCAA tournament wins removed for violations and completely burying their past two programs ten feet deep in violations, sanctions, and torn down banners the Butler Way stands out. Only under the shadow of this era do we truly notice how amazing the Butler Way is. Who knows, maybe other teams have similar montages that they supposably build their program on. Fact is, if they do, their actions in recruiting and running their program do not reflect the reality of what actually HAPPENS. Thats what makes the Butler Way special, that they are not standards that the coaches and players recite but that are actually lived and made real by everything from who and how the coaches recruit to a press conference after a final four victory displaying team over self. Sounds obvious, but this steadfast integrity and relentless approach to be exactly who the Butler Way says the team wants to be is unique.
I am proud to be a Butler Bulldog because I have watched our team pour its heart out onto the floor for four straight games. I don't think this is a lucky Cinderella run. Because of this goofy hat I have been wearing to all of the viewing parties at Butler I have been interviewed each time by some news station. Some guy asked me about my hat and I said that I am kinda superstitious and I have been wearing it for each game. He asked, "So are you the good luck charm?". The question made me angry and I may have reacted kinda harshly, "Heck no!" I said, "This has nothing to do with luck, its just us playing better basketball and wanting it more than the other team." Sure, we may not be AS athletic or talented as say Kentucky, Kansas, K-State, or Syracuse but not by much and hey! look who is left in the tournament. Again, in era where up and down athletic fast pace athleticism is seen as the way to cutting down nets the Butler style of play stands out: team over self, pass over shoot, defense over offense, and diving on the floor over watching someone else get the loose ball. I watched the Tennessee game and watched one of the players, last name Prince I believe, salute the crowd each time he made a good play. There is no room for that on Butler's squad. I am certain that "Stone Cold Stevens", as I like to call him, would sit that player down and make him think long and hard about what this program is about: a glance and cheer at our team's bench over a cocky arrogant salute to the crowd.
If I was in charge of a athletic team or program, (which will never happen) there is no doubt that I would build and model the program just like Butler has. I cant imagine any program that has been more successful (real success, not Calipari success) from top to bottom like Butler has been. That is why this is not a Cinderella run, but just an run that embodies and exempflies years and years of building from Tony Hinkle to Barry Collier to "Stone Cold Stevens" all men who did not sacrifice integrity for the momentary feeling of hanging a banner stained with violations, sanctions, DUI's, and terrible graduation rates. I cant wait to hang that banner from this years succes and be proud for the entiriety of a program. Because we all know that the ghost of Tony Hinkle would wait to we were all gone to tear down a banner out of the rafters of his gym that wasn't up to his standards.
Proud to be a Bulldog more than ever.