CLEMSON — On the day she was fired at Florida in March of 2017, after 10 seasons as the head coach of the Gators' women's basketball team, Amanda Butler realized she was going to need to approach the next chapter of her life with an open mind, not pity.
For her entire adult life, coaching basketball had defined Butler's identity, and now that she was without a job, she could do anything she wanted. She knew her next season of life was going to be a defining one one way or another — and so, after consulting with friends, family and mentors, she packed her bags. And hit the road.
"It became apparent to me that it was going to be a year that was going to be unlike any other year I'd ever had," the now new Clemson women's basketball coach said. "I did feel a lot of pressure not to blow it. I was like, 'I've got to do things that I'll never be able to do again (and things) that a college coaching schedule do not allow for.' I really felt very compelled to try to get into spaces that would give me a view of basketball that I'd never seen before."
In a multi-city tour that now has Butler feeling more confident, she took a step back in the wake of her firing and traveled the country picking the brains of anyone and everyone she could talk to. She visited Brad Stevens and his Celtics in Boston, she visited Geno Auriemma and his perennial UConn Huskies in Connecticut. She picked the brain of Stan Van Gundy in Detroit and every G-League coach she could meet up with. There were men's college coaches she talked to and other women's college coaches, too.
When Clemson hired her to take over for Audra Smith, who was fired in March after a 9-70 ACC record, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich felt even more comfortable in Butler knowing how much she had just learned from her self-guided tour.
She certainly has quite the task in turning around a Clemson women's basketball team that was 1-15 in ACC play a year ago.
"I think that one of the platforms that I'm supposed to be standing on top of is as a coach. I think that's one of the things that God has directed my path to do," Butler said. "I will be honest, though. I wasn't 100 percent sure that was going to be college women's basketball and that was also a neat journey to go on."
Butler defines her style of coaching as aggressive and fast, says her ideas about basketball are going to be secondary to her players' strengths and weaknesses. She plans to cater to their skillsets first and foremost to help Clemson become relevant again, particularly considering the way Dawn Staley has built South Carolina into a national powerhouse.
For Radakovich, he does not necessarily need immediate success. That would be an unrealistic expectation from a program that has struggled so much in recent years. But what he does want to see is progress, and he feels like Butler will give him that.
"Personally, I got a really good first impression of her," said Clemson senior guard Danielle Edwards. "I'm excited for the new philosophies and changes."
Clemson women's schedule
Nov. 8 Wofford 7 p.m.
Nov. 11 Lipscomb 2 p.m.
Nov. 15 at South Carolina 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 19 at Alabama 8 p.m.
Nov. 22 Tennessee at Bahamas Junkanoo Jam 3 p.m.
Nov. 23 TBD at Bahamas Junkanoo Jam
Nov. 28 Illinois 7 p.m.
Dec. 2 Belmont 2 p.m.
Dec. 5 High Point 7 p.m.
Dec. 8 Rhode Island 2 p.m.
Dec. 16 Davidson 2 p.m.
Dec. 18 Marshall 12 p.m.
Dec. 21 Appalachian State 7 p.m.
Jan 3. Syracuse 7 p.m.
Jan. 6 Virginia 2 p.m.
Jan. 10 at Miami 11 a.m.
Jan. 13 at Florida State 2 p.m.
Jan. 17 Georgia Tech 7 p.m.
Jan. 20 at Pittsburgh 2 p.m.
Jan. 24 at N.C. State 7 p.m.
Jan. 31 Notre Dame 7 p.m.
Feb. 2 Louisville 2 p.m.
Feb. 7 at Wake Forest 7 p.m.
Feb. 10 North Carolina 2 p.m.
Feb. 14 Florida State 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Boston College 1 p.m
Feb. 21 at Georgia Tech 7 p.m.
Feb. 24 Virginia Tech 1 p.m.
Feb. 28 at Duke 7 p.m.