With the men’s basketball season off to a close, Coach Terry Butterfield reflected on the past year.
The Comets wrapped up the 2022–2023 season with a loss at the American Southwestern Conference semifinals against East Texas Baptist on Feb. 24. In the end, the second seed Comets won 20 games in the regular season and 15 in the ASC.
Coming out of the off-season last summer, Butterfield expected the Comets to be competitive in their league, but not necessarily dominant. But with 20 wins to show, he is confident that the Comets have had an exceptional year — regardless of the late season skid.
“I think my overall thoughts are very positive,” Butterfield said. “At the beginning of each year as a coach, you try to assess a lot of different things regarding the makeup of your team – strengths, weakness, and ultimately you never know. So, my thoughts were mixed as this thing played out. But I would have to say our guys have done a tremendous job of putting together an outstanding season and it’s a real tribute to our players that they’ve been able to reach this standard.”
Butterfield attributes the team’s success to a few different factors: strong leadership, the team’s selfless attitude toward gameplay and a strong commitment and buy-in from all players.
“I think that’s what’s made this team comparable to some of our great teams in the past,” Butterfield said. “All of our great teams have had these qualities, and this team has really measured up in those areas very well.”
Team leaders this season included seniors Hunter Stevens, James Curtis, Will Isaac and Kyle Poerschke, who all showed off on the court in different ways. Isaac holds the program record for fourth most blocked shots at 67, Stevens holds the program record of fourth most assists with 326 and Poerschke has the most points scored of any basketball player at UTD with 43. But beyond that, and possibly more importantly, the group demonstrated impeccable character. Butterfield relied on this bunch to draw the team to their highest standard, hold players accountable and create an inclusive atmosphere.
“So, no one can come to those guys and say, ‘well, I don’t know why you’re getting on to me about not playing hard.’ Because they do play and work hard,” Butterfield said. “And that gives them that sort of moral license to be demanding of their teammates and try to draw them to their highest level of play, both in practice and in games. And that’s one of the main reasons why we’re able to reach that 20 win plateau.”
Butterfield said that team unity is what propelled the Comets forward this year. The Comets brought depth. In other words, contributions across the team brought everyone success. Players such as junior guard Luke Kiser proved reliable all around, sophomore guard Nick Donnelly settled into a long-range shooter role and freshman forward Austin Page brought a spark off the bench. All in all, the Comets worked seamlessly together.
“You know, our team has just been really genuine,” Butterfield said. “Our kids do a great job of celebrating, enjoying a great game played by somebody else. All of our guys put winning first and their own individual accolades second. All good teams have that as a primary ingredient. So, I love the heart of our guys and how it’s not about me – it’s about we. They love the idea that they’re playing together to win and do something as a team.”
Along with a culture of lifting each other up and “getting to business,” Butterfield has always demanded that the team celebrate, because winning – especially on a regular basis – is no easy feat.
“I want our kids to enjoy the fruits of their hard work and all their efforts,” Butterfield said. “So, we have a little routine in the locker room after a win, when I come in, we jump around a little bit and have some fun with it because I want them to embrace the joy of winning. And I want them to understand that you always should be celebrating a job well done, whether you played your best or maybe you didn’t play as well as you’d like. Winning is fun.”
With UTD being an NCAA Division III school, student athletes don’t play for scholarships or opportunities to make it into professional sports. It is purely passion-based, and perhaps that’s why the team’s chemistry has been natural for as far back as Butterfield can remember. The past season was no exception.
“Along with the culture, I just think the kinds of guys we’re able to attract here are really smart kids,” Butterfield said. “They’re polished kids. And when they see the atmosphere and the culture that our program is about, they have a choice to buy in or not buy in. There’s no cliques in our team.”
As the Comets head into the off season, and the seniors approach graduation, Butterfield said he’ll embrace both the accomplishments of the 2022-2023 cohort and the dedication of the team’s leaders for years to come.
“Their achievements have been special,” Butterfield said. “They’ve taken us to a place I didn’t visualize at the very beginning. One day when we’re fully out of this of this, I will be really amazed by what good people they are and what good leaders they became.”