ENID, Okla. — Watch the iconic movie “Hoosiers’’ and you get an idea of new Northern Oklahoma College Enid men’s basketball coach Aaron Butcher’s personality.
Butcher grew up in Wabash, Ind., which was much like the fictional Hickory where young boys’ lives revolved around hoops. He rooted for Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers.
“That was the thing,’’ said Butcher, who spent the past six years as the head coach at Division II junior college Ancilla Domini College in Donaldson, Ind. “That was a great movie. We all grew up on that. Wabash was small. There wasn’t a ton to do there other than play basketball.’’
He smiled when told of the small Oklahoma towns where guys took their dates to the gym to shoot baskets.
“That’s the deal,’’ Butcher said. “I definitely like a girl who does that.’’
Basketball and family (wife Allison and daughter Callie, 11) are the center of his life.
“Like I told them in the interview process, I’m a really boring guy,’’ Butcher said. “I don’t golf. I don’t fish a lot. I’m a basketball guy. When I’m off the court, I spend time with my family.’’
Butcher, once he knew he wouldn’t realize the boyhood dream of playing in the NBA, decided he wanted to stay in the game as a coach or official. He was influenced by three men — his father, his high school coach and Greg Tonagel, who he assisted at Indiana Wesleyan.
“I had a passion for the game and I wanted to stay involved,’’ he said. “I would like to think I was a pretty good player, but I was pretty average. Coaching is a unique and rewarding job.’’
Butcher was 113-65 at Ancilla Domini after spending three years as an assistant at Indiana Wesleyan, his alma mater. Ancilla was 8-18, 13-15, 17-13, 20-10, 26-6 and 29-3 during his time there. At Indiana Wesleyan, he learned under two-time national Division NAIA coach of the year Greg Tonagel. IWU went to the NAIA Elite Eight twice and the nationals another time.
He doesn’t feel pressure succeeding Greg Shamburg, the only coach the 17-year-old school has ever known. Shamburg had a 329-196 record.
“I think my philosophy will be the same as it was at Ancilla,’’ Butcher said. “I showed up and worked hard every day. We had good results there and by doing it that way, hopefully, it will be the same here.’’
Ancilla averaged 90.2 points per game last season and was 255 of 697 from the three-point line.
“First, I want to score off our defense,’’ Butcher said. “If not, we’ll rebound and try to score before the defense is set. We will try to push the ball down quick. If we don’t get that, it’s four in and one out. My philosophy is a willingness to reach how to play the game and then give them the freedom to play.’’
He estimates he will play a man-to-man defense about 95 percent of the time.
Shamburg’s bench often resembled Grand Central Station with as many as 10 players in an ever-revolving rotation.
“That will all depend on the personnel we have and what the roster is,’’ Butcher said. “If you have 10 guys that can help you win a game, we’ll certainly do that. Some years we had seven. Some years we had as many as 12 in the mix. It depends on your team.’’
Butcher has sent 20 players to four-year colleges, including two at the Division I level.
“You take guys for two years and help them transition to college,’’ he said. “You hope to make them better people and help them become better basketball players. You want to give them opportunities that they didn’t have before you got there.’’
NOC Enid athletic director Jeremy Hise said before the coaching search the school would look for someone who would recruit high character and academic oriented players. Butcher fits that mold.
“Character is the first thing that I look at when we’re recruiting guys,’’ he said. “We want guys when they are wearing the Jets gear that will represent the school the way we want to be represented.’’
Butcher met with his new players on Tuesday. He will retain Chris Gerber as an assistant coach.
“That’s going to help a lot,’’ he said. “I wanted to reach out to them right away. The biggest thing when there is a coaching change is a period of uneasiness and uncertainity. We want to reassure them what the program is going to look like. They all had a good experience this year and that helps. Everybody who can come back, we anticipate that they will come back.
“I made it very clear to the guys what our expectations are. I’m certainly laid back off the court. On the court, I’m not a big yeller or screamer, but I want the guys to understand when it’s time to focus on something and get it done.’’
Shamburg was known for his diversity in recruiting with players coming not only from Oklahoma, but Texas, New York, the Bahamas, Venezuela and Africa.
Oklahoma will be Butcher’s first recruiting priority. He said with the trickle-down process of junior college recruiting, he doesn’t feel like he’s behind.
“I want to meet as many people as we can and just let them put a face with the name,’’ Butcher said. “We’ll certainly recruit Oklahoma hard, but we have good connections in Indiana, Chicago and Texas. We’ll try to get the best fit, regardless of where they come from.’’
While NOC Enid has been impacted by budget cuts, Butcher said he still will be working with more scholarships than he had at the Division II level
“I’m excited to be here,’’ he said. “There are a lot of challenges to overcome, but I had those at Ancilla, too. We’re set up to succeed here.’’
He took notice last November when he read Shamburg would be leaving NOC Enid at the end of the season to become the executive director of the Denny Price Family YMCA.
He was attracted by the Jets reaching nationals in 2017 and the longevity of its coaches. Women’s basketball coach Scott Morris and baseball coach Raydon Leaton are also the only coaches the schools have known in their sport. Hise has been at the school for 16 years.
“I did research to see if it was a place that I should explore further and it seemed to be a place like that,’’ Butcher said. “I think it speaks to what kind of place it is when people stay here that long.’’
When he and his wife came to Enid for the interview, he said “it had a family feeling.’’
“We really liked the city,’’ Butcher said. “We felt at home. They have won in the past and it has great potential. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to tackling.’’