Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators women's basketball team emerges as a power under second-year coach Amanda Butler

GAINESVILLE — Amanda Butler shook hands with the woman she grew up admiring then immediately headed across the O'Connell Center basketball court to do the Gator chomp with some of the 8,060 fans who turned out for Florida's 66-57 victory over Tennessee on Sunday.

The Gators were actually ranked ahead of the Vols and had the better record and the more experienced team. When you lose the starting five from a two-time national champion, even legendary coach Pat Summitt has to rebuild.

But Sunday wasn't about what the Vols don't have. For Butler, in her second season with the Gators, it was about what Florida is beginning to become once again.

A legitimate women's basketball program.

The Gators (22-2, 8-1 SEC) moved up to No. 9 in the AP poll Monday, their first trip into the nation's Top 10 since Feb. 12, 2001 — coincidentally at No. 9 with the same number of wins.

They have suspected they belonged most of the season. But Tennessee helped prove it. Because even now, the Vols are the measuring stick by which women's programs, particularly in the SEC, are judged.

"There's no question Tennessee does set the standard, and I think that's because of all the things that have transpired to this point," Butler said. "The 1,000th win (for Summitt) and that sort of thing signifies a lot of consistency. Freshmen, sophomores, seniors, whatever they have, you always know that Tennessee is going to be a contender to win our league and a contender to win the national championship. That's just how it is in women's basketball. Pat Summitt deserves all the credit for that."

And Butler, 36, deserves credit for what's happening with the Gators right now. A former four-year starting guard who played under UF coach Carol Ross, Butler has turned the Gators around in remarkably short fashion.

How quickly? In former coach Carolyn Peck's final season two years ago, the Gators were 9-22, 7-12 in the SEC. Last season under Butler, the Gators were 19-14, 6-8 SEC, and made it to the WNIT. According to the players, she has brought an attitude to the program that once defined her as a player: an overachiever with tremendous toughness. Ross has called her "the toughest player I ever coached."

"It's rubbing off on everybody," senior F Marshae Dotson said. "She challenges us every day in practice. If we're not doing well, she'll let us know. She's pushing us. She'll say, 'If it was me, I'd get out there and get it done for you.' So we're kind of walking in her shoes at the same time, because her swagger is ridiculously crazy. But she won't let us get the big head just because of how the season is going now."

Summitt was quick to praise the Gators on Sunday.

"Give credit where credit is due," she said. "They are playing really well together. They've got a veteran group that understands a commitment to defense, the rebounding, and they are sharing the basketball. … I think they've got one of the best man defenses, and zone, too."

When it was all over and the celebration had died down, Butler wanted to make sure her players had the chance to celebrate. After all, it was only the Gators' third win over the Vols in 40 attempts. But Monday, the focus was back on No. 24 Vanderbilt, the next opponent.

And give Butler credit. She didn't try to act as if beating Tennessee were no big deal, but she made sure to remind everyone the season didn't end. She acknowledged that part of the second-largest O'Dome crowd probably came to see Summitt and the Vols but hopes they'll come back to see her Gators. And she was quick to deflect attention.

"It is something to be excited about," Butler said. "Oh, my gosh, I grew up in Tennessee (Mount Juliet). Are you kidding me? I went to Pat Summitt basketball camp when I was 15 years old. That's what we did. But it's more about our team. … It's about what it makes the win-loss column look like. At the end of the day, that's what really matters."

Brooks honored: For her outstanding performance Sunday, which included a game-high 29 points (all 12 in a 12-0 run down the stretch), UF senior G Sha Brooks on Monday was named the SEC player of the week. It was her third time being honored this season.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators women's basketball team emerges as a power under second-year coach Amanda Butler 02/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 9, 2009 10:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  2. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  3. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 12:45: Cash said Robertson was taking better swings Friday and so he wanted to move him up today, liking the idea of having three straight right-handers vs. a LHP they don't know much about. ... Souza was still smiling this morning about his failed dive attempt last night, and the reaction it got. .. The …

  4. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  5. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]