While the Butler Bulldogs may have regressed this year in terms of win total and regular season rankings, players, fans and the people who work around the team are optimistic about the future of the program after what they’ve seen from first-year helmsmen LaVall Jordan.
Jordan, the winningest player in Butler history, the two-time all conference player for the Bulldogs, three-time NCAA tournament participant, the coach who was a mere game away from bringing an 11-win Milwaukee team all the way to the NCAA tournament just last year, is now the coach behind Butler’s first-ever Big East Tournament victory.
The 75-74 win over Seton Hall demonstrated Ball’s coaching skill, as Butler trailed by seven in the game’s final minutes. The win is one Butler aficionados of the world hope is only the beginning of what will be a program-defining legacy.
“Jordan is a Butler man through and through,” said Butler Collegian sports editor Dana Lee.
Jordan made that evident at his introductory press conference.
“I can’t wait for the first game when I hear the chant: ‘BU – TLE – R U a Bulldog’…and I might stop coaching for a second and say, ‘Hell yeah,’” he said.
Jordan’s connections to Butler go beyond his playing days and in fact extend through most of his post-collegiate life.
After returning from a one-year stint playing overseas in Europe, he served for four years as an assistant on coach Todd Lickliter’s Butler staff before following him to Iowa, where he assisted Lickliter for three more years.
When Brad Stevens, Lickliter’s replacement, left Butler to lead the Boston Celtics in 2013, Jordan was one of the leading candidates to replace him, but was eventually passed up on in favor of Brandon Miller.
According to those who are close with him, he never stopped pining for the Butler job, and after missing out on it the first time was more than willing to lie in wait for another opportunity. In the meantime, he honed his coaching chops as an assistant coach at Michigan before eventually undertaking his one-year stint at Milwaukee.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said his three matches against Jordan this year have impressed him.
“I think LaVall has – the league is lucky to have him,” Willard said. “Obviously Butler is lucky to have him. And he’s done a phenomenal job.”
More specifically Williard pointed to Jordan’s superior usage of Martin Wideman and Kamar Baldwin down the stretch, something he believes Jordan improved upon from earlier in the season.
If the reaction of fans, team media and even his own rivals are anything to go by, Butler is indeed lucky to have him for any potential tournament run now, and for however many seasons his passion for Butler University basketball continues to light up Hinkle Fieldhouse and wherever else the Bulldogs need someone to steer them through it all.