Embracing the challenge: Butcher takes on the task of making a winner out of Hobart basketball
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
UNION MILLS -- Can you win in basketball at Hobart?
History says no, as Wednesday's 59-39 win at South Central made the Brickies 3-0, a record that hasn't happened in the football-crazy town since the early 1990s.
Given his background, that was a big part the job's appeal for new coach Aaron Butcher.
"I think I've always been able to build programs," he said.
Butcher came to Hobart with a diverse resume' that included three years as an assistant at Indiana Wesleyan and one season as girls coach at Northfield, where the team went 15-8 in 2008-9, a 12-win bump from the year before. It was at Ancilla College where Butcher made his name, guiding a Chargers program to postseason berths for five straight years, something it had only accomplished twice in the prior 23 seasons. He left as the school's most successful coach, heading west to Northern Oklahoma College Enid before the Wabash High School graduate came back to northern Indiana in 2020 to be athletics director at Tippecanoe Valley.
Nothing about that really suggested Butcher would land at Hobart, where there's been one winning season (2019-20) dating back to 2010, but he saw some of his past as he eyed the future.
"That was a challenge, but a challenge at a really good school system with a good administration in place," he said. "It was an opportunity we were looking forward to tackling. It's just getting the kids enjoying basketball, having fun, understanding what fun means, understanding roles and how fun it can be when you're playing together. These first three games have helped them with that. They've made good progress."
No one's going to get carried away with a string of wins over Boone Grove, River Forest and South Central, but given the Brickies' boys hoops history, they'll take it.
"They're great kids that show up every day and work hard," said Butcher, who has former Brickies Hunter Smith and Devon Key on his staff along with Portage grad Damonte Lowery. "It's been enjoyable. You watch film from last year, but for day-to-day stuff, I'm not sure what they did. We tried to instill a culture of unselfishness, competing every day, defending at a high level. So far, the guys have done that. That's all we can ask, then it's up to us as a staff to build on the other things."
Hobart graduated the bulk of last year's contributors, returning only Keith Mullins and Gabe Dickerson among the main group. Sophomore Jayme Hairston, who saw a little varsity run as a freshman, led the Brickies with 15 points, all on 3s, in the 59-39 win over the Satellites.
"Coach put me in good position to get looks, I was ready to get an open shot and I knocked them down," Hairston said.
Hairston's excited about the start and where it might lead, both short-term and long-term.
"It's been really good," he said. "A lot of things are different. We're more energetic, way more positive, more in the zone at practice. One of his main points is changing the culture of Hobart basketball. That's what we're trying to do. We've proved that we can (win). I think we're capable of having a couple great seasons. We haven't had the greatest program. Coach has come in and worked hard to try to turn the program. Now it looks like we're headed in the right direction."