Gordon Hayward on Butler’s Second Shot
The former Bulldog weighs in on his alma mater’s title aspirations.
by Jonathan Santiago / @itsJONSantiago
“Real excited for them,” Hayward said of his alma mater Butler’s second straight national title appearance. “Hopefully they can take it this time.”
61 to 59 — Duke over Butler last year. But a season later, the Bulldogs are back in contention. And they’ve done so after losing their best player to the NBA.
Does Hayward wonder what difference he could’ve made had he opted-in for his junior year?
“You can’t say one way or the other,” he said. “It could’ve been a positive difference. It could’ve been negative.
“Some of those guys may not have developed into what they’ve become,” he continued. “And other guys have stepped up into the role they are now.”
Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard have carried the leadership load for Butler this year after Hayward’s jump to the pros. But don’t credit them with all of Butler’s success in this year’s tournament.
“Really, they’re a good team,” Hayward emphasized when asked about some of his former teammates who’ve stepped up after his departure. “I think that’s what makes them special. They’ve got five guys out there together as a unit. And when you do that, it’s hard to stop.”
Their team-first mentality is a testament to their head coach, Brad Stevens. Hayward says Stevens’ calm and poised demeanor and attention to detail are what make the 34-year-old Bulldog coach great.
“He’s prepared,” Hayward said of his former coach. “When you’re prepared, there’s nothing that’s going to rattle you. And they’ve been through everything, him and his coaching staff. So they’re able to walk out on the floor with confidence.”
Second chances don’t come around too often. Hayward is hoping Butler makes the best of theirs.
Jonathan Santiago is also a contributor to SB Nation Bay Area.