Amanda Butler has done it all at Florida. She was a four year starter as a player, spent time as an assistant coach and eventually became the head coach at her alma mater. Butler earned her position at Florida.
Butler was a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member and was second on the Gators all-time assist rankings when she graduated. Butler was a captain her senior year, and led Florida to 73 wins which was the most of any four-year class at that time.
Butler later became the first graduate assistant in UF program history and followed that up by being an assistant coach at Austin Peay and UNC-Charlotte. After just two years at Charlotte, Butler was promoted to Associate head coach. Butler was named head coach two years later when Katie Meier left Charlotte for Miami. Butler was named the 2006 Atlantic-10 Coach of the Year finishing with a 21-9 record and winning the A-10 regular season crown. Butler completed the 2007 season with a 19-13 record. Florida had an opening after firing Carolyn Peck midway through the 2007 season, and Butler was the obvious choice.
But has the honeymoon ended? Butler is 184-130 overall at Florida. Florida has never finished in the top-3 of the SEC or made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.
Butler has spent a decade as head coach of a mediocre program. That’s not the Gator way. At Florida “the everything school,” success is expected. And though you can argue that Butler has been successful as her career record is over .500, this isn’t what Florida or their fans expect.
Look at the other women’s sports at Florida: Volleyball consistently makes the NCAA tournament and wins SEC Championships. Soccer has a national championship and is always among the nation’s top-25. Gymnastics three-peated on the national stage. Women’s tennis has won five national championships and lacrosse has become a Big East powerhouse and perennial championship contender.
It’s just not the Gator way to be average. South Carolina recognized that mediocrity wasn’t satisfactory and hired Dawn Staley as head coach one year after Florida hired Butler. South Carolina had gone 165-160 in Susan Walvius’ eleven seasons. (To be fair: Walvius resigned after the 2008 season). South Carolina has become a powerhouse in women’s basketball with Staley at the helm. Staley turned a mediocre program into an amazing program that has lost only ten games in the last three seasons.
Florida seemed in position to make a run this year in the SEC. Florida was returning many of their top players from last year’s 22-9 NCAA tournament team and hopes were high as Florida was ranked in the polls.
Unfortunately on December 9 all that changed. Florida’s top player, Eleanna Christinaki quit on her team after not accepting a first half suspension. The loss of Christinaki drained this team, and with few exceptions the team has been incredibly overmatched.
While I applaud Coach Butler for not giving in to a spoiled athlete who thought she could do whatever she wanted (note: the nature of the violation that Christinaki committed has never been publicly announced), I also question the decision to use a rotation of only eight players. Too often this year Florida has had three and four players in foul trouble with only three players to substitute.
Florida is 0-5 in SEC play this year, and unfortunately in several games the Gators haven’t even been competitive.
I really am fond of Coach Butler, she truly is a great Gator. She has passion and a certain swagger about her that makes her impossible not to like. And who knows where this team would be without Christinaki quitting, but I could also see where new athletic director Scott Stricklin would want to go another direction.
I believe she deserves at least one more season, but that seat should be extremely uncomfortable.
What do you think Gator Nation?