Butler Can Do It

For the first time since Steve Spurrier was brought on board in 1990; the Florida Gators have turned to an alumnus to head up a high profile team on campus. Amanda Butler, who played on the first two NCAA Tournament team in Florida history, begins the task of rebuilding Florida's program.

Butler is not a "star" hire like Gail Goestenkors or Joanne Boyle might have been. But she just might be the right person at the right time. After all, Carolyn Peck was a "star" hire that was universally acclaimed and you saw how that turned out.

Amanda Butler was far from the most talented player on her Gator teams. She shot 33 percent from the field in her career. Yet despite always facing quicker point guard, she never had a negative assist/turnover ratio. Her toughness was always in evidenced, never more notably than when she suffered a cut over her eye that required seven stitches against Stephen F. Austin. She returned to the court in twelve minutes.

Florida Can Compete at Highest Level

While Butler faces a major challenge in re-establishing Florida's program, there is proof it can be done. From 1993 through 2002 Florida played in nine NCAA tournaments and one NIT. Even through the slump of the last five years, Florida earned two NCAA bids and made one NIT appearance.

Florida has never won the SEC Championship or the SEC Basketball Tournament. They finished second in the league race twice ('98, '01), and in 1997 the Gators reached the final of the tournament before losing to Auburn. That same year the Gators made their deepest run in the NCAA Tournament. Florida reached the regional final before losing to Old Dominion 53-51, falling one win shy of a trip to the Final Four.

Those highlights show that success can be had in Gainesville. Just as the Men's Basketball Team made three NCAA appearance in the late 1980's and two more in the mid 1990's, the women's program has had pockets of success as well. In fact, this program has a stronger history than the men did when Jeremy Foley turned to a young up-and-coming coach with only two years head coaching experience.

Time will tell whether Amanda Butler is the right coach at the right time. There are a number of key areas that will go a long ways towards determining that issue. Tomorrow we will examine some of those issues.

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