MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Da’Sean Butler is a name synonymous with West Virginia basketball, but his impact on the game transcends the Mountain State.
He was a key part of WVU’s 2010 Final Four run. Just over a decade later, his basketball journey is still ongoing, but just in a new capacity.
In February 2021, Butler joined the coaching staff at Wheeling University. By October, he made the jump from Divison II to the NBA G-League where he’s currently an assistant with the College Park Skyhawks.
“It’s been going really, really well to tell you the truth. It’s just been a big learning experience for me personally. There are days where I realize how much I don’t know what I’m doing, then there are days I realize I do know a good bit about basketball,” Butler said. “Just those good days and bad days, blending them together and getting better in between.”
Butler describes his path to coaching as the “luckiest chain of events.” Chris Richardson, the head coach at Wheeling, is someone he’s known since he was 18 years old. They fell out of contact for about eight years as Butler was pursuing his professional career overseas. Once he returned to the states, he realized Richardson got into coaching. They reconnected and Butler was invited to Wheeling to speak to Richardson’s team. The rest is history.
“He brought me up there to talk to the players about what it takes to be a pro and things of that nature. I talked to the guys and it was a good conversation,” Butler said. “Afterwards, all those loving people helped me and I got a chance to work at Wheeling which was phenomenal.”
Ep. 1 – Da’Sean Butler – The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast
The same type of relationships that lead the former Mountaineer to the Cardinals’ coaching staff are the same ones that landed him at the next level.
“I used those connections I made just through basketball to get me into the NBA assistant coaches program. I joined that program while I was at Wheeling as an assistant coach and I was trying to get my master’s. I took on all three at the same time,” Butler said. “The classes went well. I graduated from both WVU and the assistant coaches program. Then I got invited to work two separate (NBA) summer leagues, one in Las Vegas and one in Salt Lake City. I was a guest coach and was able to help both organizations. I got to meet a bunch of people throughout the summer. It was a whirlwind. It happened really quickly and I ended up getting this opportunity offered to me.”
However, those same relationships made it a bittersweet opportunity.
“It sucked at the same time because I had to leave those guys I built such good relationships with in a short amount of time,” Butler added.
He still is in contact with his former WU players and coaching staff. Butler said he remains in all the group chats and offers advice on anything he can — related to both basketball and life. He wants to help the next generation accomplish their goals by sharing his experiences. It was that exact reason he got into coaching in the first place.
“I always knew I wanted to coach. My dad kind of coached me when I was younger. I got a chance to go with him to a ton of camps and coaching clinics and I was playing basketball myself. The chance to see his relationships with those players — I was an only child, so the guys he mentored and helped out were somewhat brothers to me,” Butler said. “Just seeing that piqued my interest in coaching. From then on, going to those clinics and meeting those great coaches, I was hooked on the idea. I was just in love with basketball as a whole.”
And basketball has reciprocated that love. After playing in Morgantown from 2007-10, Butler was drafted by the Miami Heat and played as a professional until 2020. He learned from a number of influential coaches along the way, including his dad and Bob Huggins. They helped shape him as a player. Now, they inspire him as a coach.
“If I could take anything from those guys, it’s more or less just being myself,” Butler said. “They didn’t try to be anything they weren’t and they were very transparent and honest. They always kept an open and honest dialogue with their players. That’s why their players respect them and they are beloved. They aren’t pretending to be something in front of the state and their team and then someone completely different away from the lights.”
As a coach with College Park, Butler’s relationships came into play once again in December. Former Mountaineer guard Deuce McBride and the Westchester Knicks faced the Skyhawks for back-to-back games.
When Butler was back in Morgantown during the summers, he and McBride crossed paths during their respective workouts. Now, they were meeting as opponents.
Butler said he used that opportunity to get McBride’s insight on the G-League and what he could expect. That afternoon, he learned a lot from Deuce, and unfortunately, it was at his expense.
“After selfishly picking his brain for about about 5-10 minutes, we joked around a bit. Then I told him to take it easy on us. He didn’t,” Butler said. “He had a really good game the first time we played him. Surprise.”
The Mountaineer legend and the Skyhawks return to action on Sunday against Motor City. You can hear this exclusive interview with Butler in its entirety on the debut episode of The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast.