-Photo by Jordan McPherson
Amanda Butler had the chance to make a name for herself in the coaching world at the University of Florida, at the same place and on the same court that she played on for four years as a college student.
On Monday, her 45th birthday, her chances ran out. UF announced Butler had been fired after 10 seasons. It is the first coaching change under new athletics director Scott Stricklin.
“Amanda obviously loves the University of Florida. She worked tirelessly trying to grow this program and help it achieve consistent success, and her efforts will always be appreciated,” Stricklin said in a release. “These decisions are always difficult, and more so in this instance because of the person Amanda is and how well she is liked throughout our department.
Butler, who played point guard for the Gators from 1990-1994 and turned 45 on Monday, led the Gators to four NCAA Tournament appearances. The Gators, however, never made it out of the first weekend in any of the appearances. Florida never finished higher than fourth in the SEC regular-season standings.
“I appreciate the opportunity that was given to me as a young head coach to return to my alma mater, a place I love and where I developed many special relationships and memories,” Butler, who finished with a 190-137 record as UF's coach, said in a release. “The future is bright for the program.”
The Gators finished the 2016-17 season with a 15-16 record (5-11 in SEC play), their second losing record in the last three seasons. The season looked promising heading in, with UF ranked No. 20 in the country in the preseason. However, senior guard Simone Westbrook tore her ACL before the season began and star combo guard Eleanna Christinaki transferred out of the program in December after she opted not to accept a half-game suspension for "violation of team culture." UF played most of the season with eight or nine healthy players, four of them freshmen.
“We will immediately begin the process of finding a new women’s basketball coach," Stricklin said. "I believe this program has the resources and support to achieve sustained success and compete for championships.”
Stricklin has had success finding successful women's basketball coaches before. As the AD at Mississippi State, Stricklin hired Vic Shaeffer in 2012 to lead the Bulldogs' women's basketball program. After going 13-17 and 22-14 in his first two years at the helm, Shaeffer has led Mississippi State to three-straight years with at least 27 wins for the first time in program history. The Bulldogs are 29-4 this year and ranked seventh in the country ahead of the NCAA Tournament.