Carter, Butch 1958–
Butch Carter 1958–
Basketball player, coach
Butch Carter began his career as a professional basketball player, but soon moved on to become one of only seven African-American head coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association. Despite considerable success during his first seasons as a coach, Carter, who comes from a strong, middle-class, family-oriented background, found his career endangered by controversy.
Carter was born on June 11, 1958 in Springfield, Ohio. The oldest of seven children, he was raised in Troy, Ohio and later moved to Middletown, Ohio where he would later graduate from Middletown High School. He was a standout athlete in high school, where he was named Ohio’s 1976 High School Player of the Year. Additionally he was a high school All-American basketball selection as a senior and a second-team all-state high school football selection as a junior. Carter’s football prowess came as little surprise. His brother, Cris, went on to become a Pro Bowl receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.
Carter was recruited by legendary college coach Bobby Knight of Indiana. As a Hoosier, Carter was a reserve for three years and became a starter his senior season, averaging 11.1 points per game. In his junior year, Carter was named Most Valuable Player of the 1979 National Invitational Tournament when he hit the winning shot with seconds remaining against cross-state rival Purdue.
In the 1980 NBA draft, Carter was a second-round selection of the Los Angeles Lakers. In his first game as a Laker, Carter logged 32 minutes and scored 16 points. Fourteen games later, he was a starter, averaging 9.6 points and 49 percent shooting. Prior to the 1981-82 season, Carter was acquired by the Indiana Pacers. He quickly became the Pacers second-best shooter, hitting .501 from the floor and .805 from the free throw line. In the 1983 game against the Dallas Mavericks, Carter scored a career-high 42 points, making all six of his free throws and two 3-point shots. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds, Carter was an impressive guard. He played 73 games in 1983 and averaged 13.4 points per game. On October 19, 1984, he was traded to the New York Knicks as a second-round draft pick.
When Carter was named head coach of the Toronto Raptors on February 13, 1998, he became the seventh
At a Glance…
Born on June 11, 1958 in Springfield, OH; son of Clarence and Joyce Carter; married Jill; children: Brandon, Blake, Baron. Education : Indiana University,
Addresses: Office— Carter Croup, 99 Harbour Square, Ste. 2908, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5J 2S2.
African-American to lead a professional basketball franchise. At the time of Carter’s appointment, African-American positions on pro basketball clubs were typically reserved for players and maintenance crews. In previous decades, it was highly unlikely to find a black head coach, general manager, or owner. At the time Carter was named head coach of the Raptors, he was only one of four African-American head coaches in the NBA. In 1998, Lenny Wilkens coached the Atlanta Hawks, Alvin Gentry coached the Detroit Pistons and Bernie Bickerstaff, who would later be fired, led the Washington Wizards.
The Raptors’ General Manager, Glen Grunwald, retained Carter for the 1998-1999 season and, in return, Carter led the team to the playoffs. Carter began that season with a promising team roster that included a mix of young superstars in waiting as well as seasoned veterans. That healthy mix of players was lead by the soon-to-be superstar, small forward Vince Carter.
Kelly Dwyer, a writer for onhoops.com, noted that Butch Carter did well with the tools presented to him. Dwyer wrote, “Carter was able to mesh an unruly mix of seasoned veterans (Charles Oakley, Kevin Willis, Dee Brown), lottery-era leftovers (Doug Christie, John Wallace) and precocious youngsters (Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady) into a near-.500 machine.”
The 1999-2000 NBA season for Toronto featured many of the same players from the previous season. Vince Carter was back, driving up television ratings and making backboards queasy. The rest of the lineup was in place and Butch Carter and his Raptors took the Eastern Conference by surprise, making its first playoff appearance.
Initially, things went smoothly for the team and everyone expected that the 1999-2000 season would be even more successful than the previous season. Dwyer noted that “1999-2000 was supposed to be even better, and it was, for a spell. The hype machine was working early on with the blood-link between McGrady and Carter, and the addition of Antonio Davis was supposed to provide the frontcourt depth each playoff team needs. Toronto rocketed out of the gate, and their potency was further fueled by the post-All Star break play of Carter, who managed one of the most impressive runs we’ve seen in years.” Then, at the end of the regular season, things grew progressively worse.
The season had wrapped up nicely for Carter and the Raptors. The team finished the regular season with a record and were bracing themselves for the first-round playoff appearances against the New York Knicks. Then, Knick player and former Raptor forward Marcus Camby relayed a story to reporters that would leave Carter short of seething.
Camby told a New York Daily News reporter about a conversation at end of the 1997-98 season in which Carter apparently assured Camby that the forward would be the focal point of the team’s rebuilding in the following season. Usually that leads to more minutes on the court, more points scored, more exposure to the community, and more money down the road. On NBA draft day in 1998, Camby was traded to the Knicks. Dwyer wrote, “Camby punctuated his frustrations to the New York Daily News by calling Carter a liar, a sort of outburst that you see three or four times a year in every major sport, when a disgruntled former player lets loose on a past employer.” In an April 21, 2000 article appearing on CNN/Sports Illustrated’s website, sportsillustrated.cnn.com, Camby ripped into Carter. “From that point on, I really don’t trust him,” Camby said. “No one likes him and no one likes to play for him. That is the kind of guy he is.”
Carter initially remained diplomatic. In the same online article, Carter remained cool after finding out he was the subject of Camby’s harsh words. However, his discretion was short-lived. Carter filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Camby, a suit that would later be rescinded.
However, the damage was done. Carter’s team was distracted and the Knicks swept them in three straight games of the best-of-five post-season series. Almost two months later, Butch Carter was fired by the Raptors.
Indiana Pacers’ Media Guide, page 20.
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