The Boston Celtics' stealthy hire of Butler coach Brad Stevens shocked the NBA landscape last week, as Stevens instantly became the NBA's youngest coach at 36 years old. Compared to the Butler assistant he's bringing with him to Boston, though, Stevens might look like an old man.
Drew Cannon, the Butler Bulldogs' basketball analytics expert, will follow Stevens to the Celtics. Most observers of college hoops probably aren't aware of Stevens' favorite statistical geek that he's called his secret weapon.
Stevens was something akin to a coaching version of baseball's Billy Beane when he took Butler to back-to-back NCAA Tournament final appearances in 2010 and 2011. In a day and age where the Kentucky Wildcats have so many five-star recruits that they aren't sure which McDonald's All-American to stick on the bench, mid-majors like Butler have to get it done without the resources larger schools have.
That led Butler to get it done without a whole lot of flair. A large part of that was due to Stevens' obsession with advanced statistics, including Ken Pomeroy's website that the New York Times reported he looked at before the title game with Duke in 2010.
As Sports Illustrated details, the 23-year-old Cannon leaving town might have a larger impact than most people think, as Stevens has tended to stick to Cannon's lineup rules, barring things like foul trouble or fatigue rearing their ugly head.
Although there is a greater push for more statistical analysis in college sports, Pomeroy told Sports Illustrated schools don't exactly go out and replace someone like Cannon.
"What makes Drew special, and this shouldn't be taken lightly, is that he's good at crunching numbers and he's good at interpreting those numbers in a way that a coach can understand, sensibly and rationally," Pomeroy said. "He knows his role in informing a coach's opinion. For a guy to do that at 22 is pretty outrageous."
Whether or not the statistical focus stays in Butler remains to be seen. Usually with new coaches come new staff and new ways of thinking. But the Bulldogs did fill their vacancy in-house when hiring Brandon Miller, meaning he could continue to stick with the stats.