INDIANAPOLIS — Most people recall where they were upon hearing significant news in their life, whether it was positive or negative. I remember where I was when I heard now-former Butler basketball coach Brad Stevens was going to the Boston Celtics.
Sitting in the Philadelphia airport on July 3, I got a text message from my brother, my partner in many Butler hoops excursions, including two Final Fours and the Maui Invitational. Together, along with virtually the entire sporting world, we were flummoxed.
After the initial panic subsided, and Brandon Miller was hired as Stevens’ replacement, Butler fans moved their eyes to the future. Saturday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse, they got a glimpse into what that future holds, with similarities and differences with the program’s recent, successful past.
Miller got off on the right foot in front of Butler’s biggest home-opening crowd (9,617) since 1993, as the Bulldogs outscored Lamar by 25 points in the second half in an 89-58 victory.
“What really made the win special was the atmosphere,” Miller said. “You see Hinkle filled to the very top, you see the Dawg Pound the way it was. For that to be the first win of the year and be 1-0, it feels terrific.”
It was tight game through most of the first half, but like so many wins under Stevens, Butler took off after adjustments were made. Miller probed for weaknesses, and found them inside. Senior forward Khyle Marshall dominated, with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
“At halftime we realized that I could’ve gotten in (the paint) more,” Marshall said. “So we really picked it up after halftime and it worked out really well for us.”
Stevens held the philosophy that leadership isn’t limited to class. With the dedication and fire Marshall and Erik Fromm (10 points Saturday) have shown, Miller is leaning on his two seniors.