Winning isn’t everything, but it sure helps.
After transforming the UTD men’s basketball team from a seven-win squad a year ago to conference championship contender, head coach Terry Butterfield was recognized as the American Southwest Conference East division coach of the year in a poll of fellow league coaches.
“[Being named] coach of the year is very much appreciated, and it’s a real honor to have that recognition, but it’s indicative of how our players turned it around for the positive,” Butterfield said.
“Like I told our guys, I didn’t play a minute this season. The real credit belongs with them,” he said.
Butterfield’s players aren’t surprised that their coach is getting the conference-wide recognition he deserves.
“He did a real good job bringing in a bunch of guys who were great athletes,” freshman guard Martin Salinas said.
“We were able to have a little chemistry and play some basketball. As the season went on, we played better and his coaching got better,” he said.
Junior forward Eric Chatham agreed, citing Butterfield’s hard-nosed, no-nonsense style of coaching.
“He didn’t let us be lazy. He always had something to keep us on out toes,” Chatham said.
Chatham, known affectionately by his teammates as Smiley, was one of seven Comet hoopsters to pick up conference accolades, receiving All-East honorable mention.
“Smiley is very deserving (of the honor). He worked very hard in the off-season to get his body right,” junior forward Bart Holloway said.
Junior guard Jason Malone, in his first season with the Comets, was named to the ASC East All-Division first team and was honored as the East’s newcomer of the year.
“Jason Malone went from a situation where he wasn’t playing a lot to here where he played really well,” senior guard Brian Burton said.
“I think Jason Malone is one of the best players in the conference, not just the East division,” Chatham said.
“He didn’t necessarily put us on his shoulders because it was a team effort, but he really, really helped us,” he said.
Forwards Adam Bush and James Venters also won individual honors, being included on the All-East freshman team.
“Both of these freshmen played like they weren’t freshmen. They came in and contributed right away,” Burton said.
“Playing with the guys was a great learning experience. James and Adam stepped up big time in the post for us. Being around Smiley is just an overall positive experience,” Salinas said.
Butterfield stressed that the awards are well deserved but should be taken with a grain of salt.
“I’m appreciative of the honors, but I’m out of sorts about the way we bowed out of the conference tournament. Now that we’ve gotten a taste of it, we know what it’s going to take,” he said.
“Not a single one of the guys is at their maximum potential yet. I want to want more for ourselves,” Butterfield said.
Three women Comets also received post-season honors.
Junior guard Crystal Pope and sophomore guard Jennifer Longoria were named to the All-East second team, averaging 14.2 and 10.9 points per game respectively.
“Crystal was pretty consistent all season,” head coach Rachelle Leonard said. “She had a really good year for us,”
“Jen had a major transition this year. She played hard and shot well from the three-point line. She definitely deserved [the honor],” Leonard said.
Sophomore guard Kia Jones received All-East Honorable Mention, scoring 9.9 points per game for the Comets.
“Kia is one of the quickest players in the league. We look forward to big things from her next year,” Leonard said.
“They’re all deserving for sure,” Holloway said.