Spurned by Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart on Wednesday, UCLA has reportedly set its sights on poaching a different mid-major head coach to fill its vacancy.
UPDATE: Friday, March 29th, at 1 p.m. ET by Kyle Vassalo
The Bruins may have been interested in Butler's Brad Stevens, but the feelings were not entirely reciprocated.
According to ESPN, Brad Stevens will remain Butler's head coach:
---End of Update---
According to ESPN's Andy Katz and Peter Yoon, the Bruins have tapped current Butler coach Brad Stevens as their new top target. Stevens, 36, is coming off leading the Bulldogs to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
When asked whether he had contact with UCLA about its vacancy, Stevens refused to comment on the situation via a text message exchange.
"I'm the coach at Butler," Stevens wrote (per ESPN). "As you know, my stance is to not comment on any other speculation or situation."
Rumors and innuendo have become something of the norm for Stevens, a rising star in the coaching ranks who has long been sought after by major college programs. Having just completed his fifth season in Indianapolis, Stevens has complied a record of 166-49 (.772 winning percentage) and led the Bulldogs' ascent to national prominence.
The coach's most notable accomplishment was leading Butler to back-to-back national championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011. The Bulldogs came within inches of winning the 2010 title when Gordon Hayward's half-court shot just barely missed banking into the basket, giving Duke a 61-59 victory.
Stevens' penchant for March brilliance has made him a top target for many major conference programs looking for a boost. Nevertheless, he stayed at Butler each time and is currently under contract through the 2021-22 season.
While it's unclear how much interest Stevens has in the job, UCLA may be the one school prominent enough to pry him away. The Bruins have the most championships in Division I history with 11 and are second behind North Carolina with 17 Final Four appearances.
Though the program fell under hard times with Ben Howland, it may be a sleeping giant—much like when John Calipari plucked Kentucky out of near obscurity.
Will Stevens take that opportunity? It remains to be seen. But there will undoubtedly be a ton of hand-wringing in Indianapolis and Westwood until Stevens makes his decision.
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