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Amanda Butler brings winning pedigree to Clemson

For the Clemson women’s basketball program, a program that has not played in a postseason tournament since taking part in the 2004 NIT, the necessity of having a winning culture is of the utmost importance. And last week’s hiring of new head women’s basketball coach, Amanda Butler, was certainly a step in the right direction of bringing that winning culture back to Tigertown.

A highly successful coach for the Florida Gators from 2007-2017, Butler, based on her past successes alone, appears to be a slam-dunk hire for the Tigers. After relieving former head coach Audra Smith of her duties earlier this month, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich engaged in a national search for the next leader of the women’s basketball team and ended that search by signing a five-year deal with Butler this past week.

Speaking on the hire, Radakovich told the press, “[Butler’s] passion for all aspects of collegiate coaching, coupled with her desire to shape the lives of student-athletes on and off the court, stood out throughout our search.”

Esteemed in the college ranks, Butler, who had a decorated playing career for Florida in the early 1990s, experienced ample success while coaching the Gators, in addition to the Charlotte 49ers prior to that. While at Charlotte from 2005 to 2007, Butler won an Atlantic 10 regular season conference title and, because of it, received the honor of being named the 2006 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year. Butler then served as the head coach of her alma mater for a decade, reaching the postseason on eight separate occasions and accruing six 20-win seasons in Gainesville.

Despite being let go by Florida at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 season due to a lack of significant postseason success, Butler displayed a remarkable knack for developing talent over the course of her Florida tenure. Florida produced 11 All-SEC players with Butler at the helm, and, furthermore, seven Gators went on to get drafted to suit up in the WNBA after playing under Butler at Florida. 

Most importantly, Butler’s track record of readying her teams for postseason play is exactly what Clemson needs. With four NCAA Tournament appearances under her belt as a head coach, as well as two such appearances as a player, Butler has what it takes to make Clemson one of the ACC’s top teams once again.

“I think that the opportunity here fits me,” Butler said at her introductory press conference. “And that’s what we’re all looking for. Whether you’re a student looking for a college to attend, whether you’re an athlete looking for a team to play for or whether you’re a coach looking for a university community to join, you’re looking for a fit.”

Gritty, tough and engaging, Butler is expected to spark a Tigers unit that has been fairly dormant in recent years, with Butler being designated the task of cutting back on the inconsistency that has plagued Clemson in recent years. An adept recruiter, Butler will be forced to compete against top-tier programs in the area (such as the rival South Carolina Gamecocks) for recruits, but she is fully prepared to commit to the turnaround of the Clemson program.

“We’ve got some work to do,” Coach Butler said when discussing the status of the rebuilding Clemson program. “We’ve got some catching up to do.”

All in all, Clemson boasts plenty of talent, and with Butler’s winning pedigree, the recruiting trail should be much friendlier to the Tigers in the coming years. Simply put, the Clemson women’s basketball team has fallen by the wayside in recent years, failing to compete at a high mark in a conference stacked with powerhouse programs. 

However, Butler’s history evinces that she is perfectly capable of bringing a program into relevancy and prominence, with the Gators admirably competing alongside the abundance of bluebloods boasted by the SEC throughout her coaching tenure at Florida. And after taking a year off from coaching, Butler is eager to make an impact at Clemson and is confident in her ability to reinstitute Clemson’s once-proud winning culture.

“That was something that I was really eager to get back involved with again: to have my team and to be part of something that was bigger than just me as an individual on this journey.”

The journey for the Clemson program is expected to become much more auspicious than it has been in recent years now that Butler is in charge, and, for a team teeming with athleticism and natural talent, the Tigers should turn heads next season on their road to becoming top cats in the ACC once again. 


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