CBSSports.com Senior Writer

You can hate Hayward's decision, but it's the right move

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Gordon Hayward is staying in the NBA Draft.

Will Gordon Hayward's decision to stay in the NBA Draft pay off? (Getty Images)  
Will Gordon Hayward's decision to stay in the NBA Draft pay off? (Getty Images)  
And I hate it.

I hate it because I loved the thought of Butler being a preseason top five team. Hate it because I enjoyed the idea of a player from the Horizon League gracing magazine covers. Hate it because I wanted the Bulldogs to have a legitimate shot at another Final Four. Hate it because it's fun to celebrate a National Player of the Year candidate from a small private school.

So I hate that Hayward is leaving Butler.

But I don't blame him.

Because it makes sense.

It makes sense because he's almost certain to go no lower than 20th and secure a guaranteed contract worth at least $2.35 million. Makes sense because he might go much higher and earn much more. Makes sense because it's possible his stock has peaked thanks to a nice run to the national title game. Makes sense because it's unlikely his junior season would've been as memorable as the one he just enjoyed.

That's what some don't seem to understand.

There's this theory among many college basketball enthusiasts that Hayward could have returned to school and "made another Final Four," and I suppose that's true as long as the emphasis is placed on "could." Hayward could make another Final Four, no doubt. But he could just as easily lose in the second round of the NCAA tournament like Sherron Collins did two months ago because the NCAA tournament is as unpredictable as it is spectacular.

Would Butler have been among the favorites to make the Final Four with Hayward?

Absolutely.

But if Cole Aldrich and Patrick Patterson weren't guaranteed Final Fours when they returned to Kansas and Kentucky last year, I'm not sure why anybody thinks Hayward would be guaranteed -- or even likely to make -- another Final Four by returning to Butler this year. He would've had a chance, but nothing more, and my guess is that the Bulldogs would've lost somewhere before the title game, if only because that's what all but two schools do every season.

So it makes sense to leave now.

And you'll just have to find another story to follow.

You realize that's why so many hoop fans are disappointed by Hayward's decision, don't you? It's not that they care about Hayward or Butler as much as it's that they love the story of Hayward and Butler the same way I love the story of Hayward and Butler because, let's be honest, what's not to love? It's the story of an Indiana kid who barely played AAU ball and didn't crack anybody's top 100 recruiting rankings emerging as a serious talent as a freshman before, as a sophomore, leading a small school from a small league to the national title game, where he was one shot away from upsetting Duke and creating the outline for a major motion picture.

It's an incredible story.

And you wanted it to continue.

Hell, I wanted that story to continue.

But the only thing that mattered is what Hayward wanted, and what he wanted -- what he wants -- is to make the safest play possible and take the only guarantee on the table, i.e., a guaranteed NBA contract worth millions of dollars. Nobody could promise Hayward that he'd sink as many shots or score as many points next season at Butler; another 33-win season and trip to the Final Four wasn't promised, either. All anybody could reasonably promise Hayward is that if he stayed in the NBA Draft he would be worth a lot of money before Independence Day, so he decided to stay in the NBA Draft and make himself worth a lot of money before Independence Day.

And I hate it.

For selfish reasons, I hate it.

But I don't blame him.

Because it makes sense.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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