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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The "Butler Way" on display in Columbus tonight

The "Butler Way" refers to the system used by the Butler University men's basketball team. The Butler Way was originated by legendary Butler Bulldogs coach Tony Hinkle, who coached at the university in the 1920's. More recently, the term and it's underlying attitudes were adopted by former coach and current athletic director Barry Collier.

Tonight two schools who have both adopted the Butler Way will face off in a Big Ten conference matchup when Iowa travels to Ohio State. Buckeye's coach Thad Matta took over the Butler program in 2000 when Collier left for a brief stint at Nebraska. Matta led the Bulldogs to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before leaving after just one year to accept the coaching position at Xavier. After Matta's departure, Butler hired current Iowa coach Todd Lickliter. Lickliter coached Butler from 2001 to 2007 reaching the Sweet 16 twice and earning National Coach of the Year honors last year. Lickliter was named head coach at Iowa after Steve Alford left to take over at New Mexico. Lickliter and Matta also both played as guards at Butler. Matta actually played for Lickliter when he was an assistant coach at Butler.

The "Butler Way" is described as denying selfishness, demanding commitment, accepting reality and yet seeking improvement every day. An emphasis is put on the good of the team over individual players. Butler has consistently been one of the most efficient teams in the nation this decade, showcasing a great defense and an offense that values possession of the ball. Last season, Butler led the nation with the fewest turnovers per game.

The blueprint of Butler basketball has proved to be very successful for Thad Matta. In his previous seven years as coach at Butler, Xavier and Ohio State, Matta's teams have missed the NCAA Tournament just once, the 2004-05 season(his first at OSU), when the Buckeyes were ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. Lickliter is now trying to follow in the footsteps of his friend and predecessor Matta once again as he tries to implement the principles of the Butler Way at his new school Iowa. The Hawkeyes have struggled this season with a talent-strapped and inexperienced team left behind by Alford, but if history holds true, there will be brighter days ahead for the Iowa basketball program.

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