Butler Begins New Challenge at WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Butler Begins New Challenge at WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

The kid from New Jersey who led one of the most historic runs in WVU basketball history is now poised to roam the sidelines with Bob Huggins as the team's new graduate assistant.

Da'Sean Butler remembers his own graduate assistants from the time he spent on the court in Morgantown and knows how beneficial the position can be when it comes to a future career in basketball. But he isn't quite sure he's ready to hear any student-athletes call him Coach Butler just yet.

"I haven't put much thought into anything as far as ‘Coach Butler,' but especially with the guys, I tell them to call me what they normally call me, which is Da'Sean, DaDa, whatever the case may be," Butler says with a laugh. "Obviously I'm somewhat of a staff member, but at the same time, I'm a player and I can relate to them and I can help them out with anything they need to understand."

Do you hear what Butler said there? He's a player.

At just 24 years old, the third-best scorer in Mountaineers history and a former second round NBA draft choice is unwilling to give up on the career he was pursuing before a string of knee surgeries put him off course.

Over the weekend, Butler joined a wave of former WVU players and coaches at the Bob Huggins Fish Fry in Morgantown. Among them was Jerry West. The two share a mutual respect for each other not only for what they accomplished on the court, but also for the relationship they've developed through their Mountaineer connection.

West believes the opportunity to get back with the program and learn from a coach like Huggins is one that Butler cannot pass up, but in doing so, the path he hoped to follow as a player may be significantly altered.

"To this point in time, the thing he loved most was being able to compete. When you have three operations on a knee and serious injuries like that, I think his mind and his thought process has to be completely different today," West said. "Maybe that dream of being a professional player, being able to play on an NBA team or even playing in Europe where they play very good basketball – those dreams could be gone."

Diminishing, maybe. Gone? Not a chance, says Butler.

The most recent setback had the former Mountaineer prepared to sit out of basketball for an entire season before working out with teams sometime in 2013. His plan was to enroll in graduate school at his alma mater and have a courtside view of his old team throughout the season. Now, his seat courtside just happens to be a few down from Huggins.

"As far as my future, I know it's a good move and just like you said, I'm trying to continue to play, but as of right now, I'm focusing on this season and getting the guys ready and taking care of my part in making this a good year," he says.

Darris Nichols, another former teammate of Butler's who had a year as Huggins' graduate assistant, believes that Butler's decision to accept the offer is the right one. After just one season in the position, Nichols moved on to his first assistant coaching job alongside another former GA, Kevin Schappell, at Northern Kentucky University.

"[Huggins] basically just taught me how to work, how to interact with everybody and how to maintain relationships," says Nichols. "I learned a lot from him and I know Da'Sean will, too, being on the other side as opposed to being a player."

Butler is aware that his current role will give him a changed perspective than what he has experienced so far in the game of basketball.

"I knew what it was like to be a player, but this is a new year, different players who come from different backgrounds," he says. "I get to see what it's like to be on staff and help out with some of these guys. I get to see what the headaches are like for the coaches and I also remember what the headaches are like as far as being a player."

He has watched West Virginia's roster closely, not only in last season's games, but also first hand as he worked on his game with them in the new practice facility during the offseason.

Their skills and deficiencies are familiar to Butler, and his successes in the game will give him credibility that not every GA carries with him.

"I think he knows what's going to be expected of him. Hard work is a skill. He was a very hard worker as a player and he was a very dedicated worker as a player," West says of Butler. "Those same attributes are going to have to carry over as a coach.

"He's a pretty young guy and I can't imagine some kid coming in who knows him and saying, ‘Hey, Coach.' You've got to be kidding me."

The biggest message Butler says he can pass on to the players on the team is to be patient and wait for their turn. He references past teammates like Joe Mazzulla, Kevin Jones, Darris Nichols and Devin Ebanks as those who understood their role in Huggins' system and allowed themselves to develop through the years.

It's a tall task, but when Butler accepted the offer to join Huggins once again, he envisioned the same success that the two put together when he was the student on the court. The lineup is completely different, full of more guards and players with better ball skills.

And now, it has Butler, too.

"We have great players… I kind of see that potential," he says. "You never know."

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