A funny thing happened in the lead up to Anthony Butler being named the new coach of the San Benito High boys basketball team last week. The 2004 San Benito High graduate knew the other candidates who had interviewed for the job, and they all started texting each other to see if anyone had the inside scoop.
Butler only had an inkling he would get the job when he was called into San Benito High Athletic Director Tod Thatcher’s office on June 14.
“The process was definitely suspenseful,” said Butler, a former Balers standout post who played on some of the program’s best teams in the early 2000s. “All of the candidates were kind of clueless of what was going on, so it was definitely a cliffhanger. When I found out I got the job, I was pretty shocked. But then I got really excited to start getting to work.”
Butler knows it will take more than just work—talent, coaching and discipline also play key roles—to revitalize a program that was in danger of getting demoted to the Monterey Bay League’s lower Pacific Division for the upcoming 2017-2018 season. With an enrollment of approximately 3,000 students, San Benito High is one of the largest schools in the Central Coast Section.
For one of its big three boys sports—basketball, football and baseball—to be relegated in the Pacific Division no doubt would be a rather embarrassing blow for a proud sports school. That’s where Butler comes in. Butler was the school’s junior varsity boys coach for the last six years which succeeded a year of coaching the girls freshmen team and the girls junior varsity squad.
Butler felt the timing was right for him to apply for the varsity job.
“Before when I was coaching under Kap (former Balers coach David Kaplansky), I never thought about it,” Butler said. “I liked being a JV coach and being a part of the system where I helped connect the younger players to their future roles on the varsity team. It was definitely time to step up and see what I can do.”
Butler faces an enormous task, but thankfully he won’t do it alone. He’s well connected to the Baler coaching tree—Kaplansky, who had tremendous success with both the boys and girls teams—speaks highly of Butler and his ability to motivate players who didn’t try out for last year’s team to come out for the upcoming season.
Butler said he would be a fool not to elicit advice from Kaplansky on a semi-regular basis.
“Coach Kap has been a big influence, and I’m going to pick the brains of other people who have had success to see where this program needs to go,” Butler said. “I’m reaching out to contacts and using the resources around me. The biggest thing for me is bringing excitement back for Baler basketball.”
San Benito has finished at or near the bottom of the league standings in each of the last two years, and Butler will be looking to change that by getting a solid summer program going, including games and conditioning. Even though the season is several months away, Butler is excited to have quality returners in senior guard Oliver Garcia, senior guard Joe DiMaggio and senior forward Mikey Esparza.
“I love watching Mikey play,” Butler said. “That guy is relentless. What’s nice is there are a number of athletes who we can work with, guys that are athletic and can really make a difference.”
Butler has already or will be reaching out to athletes who didn’t try out for the team last year.
“I definitely know of a couple of guys who will come to open gym,” Butler said. “We definitely have good and talented athletes, and they work. At the end of the day, that will carry us far.”