The first time Amanda Butler came to Clemson she was 16-years old as she came for an All-Star exposure event at Littlejohn Coliseum.
As she thought back to that moment it was not the competition she remembered. Nor was it the long drive from her hometown in Tennessee, instead it was the big orange Tiger Paws on the highway leading them into Clemson.
“We were taking pictures in the middle of the big orange paw prints,” Butler said Friday after being introduced as the new women’s basketball coach at Clemson. “At that time, I was amazed. I had never seen anything like that. I knew it was an indication that this place is special. It was neat.”
When she came to interview for the job on Final Four weekend, Butler had the same feeling she had when she was teenager. She again saw the Tiger Paws on the road. However this time she understands it more.
“I understand the uniqueness. I understand how special and memorable this opportunity is so it was really thrilling and not lost on me at all,” Butler said.
It did not take long for Butler to get her own Tiger Paw. She got one when she and her family flew into Clemson last night.
“I feel the power of the Paw,” she said smiling.
Butler will need that power as she tries to attempt to turn around a Clemson program that has not had a winner since the 2003-’04 season. To get a sense of how long ago that was, members of the current Lady Tigers were just starting elementary school at the time.
“When she was announced we already had a feel, the whole team was already on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,” senior guard Danielle Edwards said. “So we had a pretty good feel for here. Some players already knew her from her previous school.
“So we had a good idea about her and we kind of know what she is about.”
Butler’s previous school was at Florida, where she spent 10 seasons as the Gators’ head coach. She won 190 games in those 10 years and her teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament four times. Her teams went to the postseason eight times in all and won 20 games six times.
“I was given a tremendous opportunity at Florida,” Butler said. “When I began there the program was in a similar position as this one is in that it had not won quite as many games as it hoped to and it wanted to return to postseason. So I learned a lot of valuable lessons through that process.
“Some of those lessons I got it right and some of those lessons I get a chance to do it over and to it better a second time.”
Under former head coach Audra Smith, the Lady Tigers were 52-99 overall in five seasons and 9-70 in the ACC. Since the 2004 season, the program has not won more than five ACC games in any season.
“I think coaching and competing in the SEC is great preparation for how good this league is as well, which is very, very unforgiving,” Butler said. “At the same time, on the recruiting trail, you get a chance to go out and find people that want to be somewhere where they are going to be challenged every single day.
“There is never going to be a day where you can say let’s go ahead and put a ‘W’ in the win column. That does not exist in the ACC. Those challenges and those opportunities I have experienced to a certain degree already and I will definitely have a lot of carry over in that regard.”
Clemson and Butler agreed to a 5-year deal worth $1.8 million. She will make $350,000 per year the first two seasons, $375,000 the next two and $400,000 in year five.