NICEVILLE, FL (WJHG/WECP) Northwest Florida men's basketball coach Butch Pierre is working through this pandemic like the rest of us, dealing with its serious costs, while working to guide his program through it as well.
Butch Pierre talks about tough first season in Niceville
Friday I had the chance to converse with the coach via Zoom, Wes Johnson at the school helping out with that.
We began our conversation talking about recruiting, and how different it is these days with no real personal contact or campus visits. Coach Pierre though able to haul in what he believes are some outstanding recruits already, and he talked about some of the reasons why!
"Well I had a much earlier start than a lot of other guys, by not playing in the postseason tournament." coach Pierre told me with a bit of a chuckle. "But I kind of recruited all year, and in the spring identified some guys. Because I know sometimes you want to have a lot of experience and transfers and guys like that. I kind of went with a mixture because I know I was returning four guys. And I also know I needed some high school kids that I know were winners. So I kind of went with my gut. So it was pretty tough but I kind of had a head start and I could be able to do it during these times."
The coach working to add to the four returning players, he's already signed four with other players committed. He believes he's signed the talent that can help trn things around quickly.
The Raiders struggling in year one under coach Pierre, just 12-16, winless in Conference play. Part of that he says was getting in late, and not having much time to recruit and prepare his players last spring and summer.
Another part he says, the incredible level of play in this league.
"You know I've competed at the highest level of basketball and it's no difference in the competition, it's just different levels. There's no doubt this is, to me, the best junior college conference in America. And the competitive state, the atmospheres on the road, the intensity of the coaches. And also the players playing with a chip on their shoulders, to be honest with you it was no different sitting on that bench than when I was at LSU or on the stage at Kansas!"
The struggles, the record, and perhaps the doubt some fans may have in him, well all that is fuel for the coach, making him that much more anxious to get recruits in, get them on the floor, and getting this program headed back in the direction they all expect it to be going.
"I'm looking forward and that's one of the reasons I'm excited about coming back, because you know, hey I took a spanking! I took a butt-whoopin. It doesn't define me as a coach, maybe to a lot of people because it was probably the first time in the history (of the program) they didn't win any games like that. But it's exciting for me, it's a challenge. Also a challenge for our team, for our school. And it's also a challenge for our program and I look forward to it. It's very competitive, and a lot of good coaches, like I said, and it's a great league."
As for the personal cost of this pandemic, coach Pierre knows that as well as anybody. Both his parents contracted COVID-19, and in late March, he lost his mother to the disease. He tells us his father continues to fight, and has made some progress, but is still battling some health issues related to it.
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