Brad McKinney had more than a passing interest in the NCAA National Championship game Monday night between Butler and Duke.
He was like a lot of other Hoosiers who got caught up in the Bulldogs' run through the tournament and into the title game in Lucas Oil Stadium at Indianapolis.
McKinney, though, has a history with Butler, and didn't jump on the bandwagon the past couple of weeks. And his interest will continue long after Butler's 61-59 heart-breaking defeat in the title game.
McKinney, a long-time Linton-Stockton High School teacher and coach, is a 1988 Butler graduate. He spent his junior and senior seasons as a student manager for the basketball team, and the next year was a graduate assistant under former coach Joe Sexton.
His senior season, his roommate on road trips was Thad Matta, a former Butler player and coach, and now the highly successful coach at Ohio State University.
"I was listening to ESPN before the game (Monday) night, and Thad was on. Thad and I are pretty good friends. We were roommates our senior year, and over this past fall break I was supposed to go over and watch some practices, but I got that H1N1 and couldn't go," McKinney said.
"Thad summed it all up when he said that the university made a commitment when they brought (Barry) Collier in to coach. That was huge. Their recruiting budget when I was there was like $3,000 a year. The new president at the time made a huge commitment to the athletic program. He wanted them to be the flag bearer and put the interest back in the university. There was a huge commitment level change."
Since the 1989-90 season, when Collier took over (he's now the athletic director), the Bulldogs have had four coaches and all have had outstanding records -- Collier (196-132), Matta (24-8), Todd Lickliter (131-61), and current coach Brad Stevens (89-15).
"There were some pretty good players (before Collier). The (Brad) Tucker kid (from Cloverdale), he could have played about anywhere he wanted to. Darrin Fitzgerald, he was a great player. He set the standard for 3-point shooting when it came out," McKinney recalled.
"They had the same hard-working, blue-collar attitude that these kids have."
McKinney, who recently completed his second season as the girls basketball coach at Linton and has served many years as the boys and girls tennis coach, said the ability level of the Butler players has improved over the past 15-to-20 years.
"Probably the players they're able to recruit now, they're a higher level in ability than they used to get. Nothing against those other players, but with the commitment the university made, they could start recruiting away from Indiana a little more. You look at the roster back then, they were mostly Indiana kids. They're still Indiana based now, but the level of ability has changed."
McKinney, who guided his Lady Miners to the Class 2A sectional title this past season, credits the Butler staff for having the Bulldogs prepared for the tournament run.
"You can't help but like what this coaching staff does. Coach Stevens did a great job in their game preparation, and the staff gets a lot of credit for that. The (Matthew) Graves kid from Switz City is a big part of that. They all work so hard and prepare them so well," McKinney explained.
"(The Butler players) weren't surprised by what anybody did against them. They teach defense so well, and they're so team oriented."
McKinney hopes Stevens will remain at Butler, but understands if he moves on to a bigger university.
"I hope he can stay. If he doesn't, I know what their (hiring) pattern has been and I hope they continue that and give Graves a shot at it. He's put his time in and deserves it," McKinney said.
"That would make a lot of Greene County people happy."