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Hettinger to name basketball court after late Coach Butterfield

During his long career, John Butterfield coached in a lot of places, but one of his greatest successes was in Hettinger, where he led the Black Devils to the 1983 Class B boys basketball state championship, 26 years after he won one in a Hettinger jersey.

Butterfield, who passed away in May 2018, is a name known throughout the state, but to Hettinger, it was always special. It's where John, a high school junior, helped Hettinger earn its first state championship as the Shooting Stars capped a 28-0 season with a 71-55 win over Fort Yates for the 1957 Class B State Championship, according to the Adams County Record.

To honor the late, long-tenured coach, Hettinger is literally etching his legacy into the school by naming the basketball court 'John Butterfield Court.'

The ceremony will take place on Saturday, Jan. 12, ahead of the girls varsity basketball game around 4:30 p.m. Making the event even more special, Hettinger-Scranton is playing Bison (S.D.), another team that Butterfield coached.

"What an honor. It's kind of unbelievable," John's son Bill Butterfield said. "That's kind of a neat deal that doesn't happen every day. That's something that's going to be there forever and there's not a lot of courts in the area named to people. Or throughout the country, even in college or any ranks, you don't see that much."

Butterfield spent nine years at Hettinger before his first of a few 'retirement's', after which he returned to coach the Black Devils boys for two years in the early '90s. During that time, he was behind the bench for the famous 4-2 win over the Regent Rangers in the 1992 District 24 tournament in Bowman.

Twenty-three years after bringing the Black Devils to state, with another retirement on his mind, Butterfield had a chance meeting with Mott-Regent athletic director Rod Meier, who was in desperate need of a basketball coach. With just weeks until the start of the 2006-2007 season, Meier convinced Butterfield to dust off the clipboard once more.

Over his first two seasons, he helped the Wildfire to a 37-14 record and their first state tournament berth in 2008. Bringing his coaching stint full circle — again — Butterfield ended his career in Hettinger as the girls basketball coach.

"I knew Coach Butterfield from a long time ago. He's been a mentor to me, he always sat down and wanted to talk basketball," Hettinger athletic director Kelly Pierce said. "I knew him from his camps that he use to run when I was a little guy over in Hettinger. ... He was just someone as a coach that I really looked up to and really enjoyed to visit. His stories often had 'I'm just a boy from Lodgepole,' and he was a good boy. He was a good man and I'm glad the court is named in his honor, it's well-deserved."

Spanning more than 40 years, Butterfield coached teams to success all over the Western side of the Dakotas. After a successful college career at the University of Minnesota, the University of North Dakota and Dickinson State (which earned him a nod to the Blue Hawk Hall of Fame in 1992), Butterfield began coaching in Drayton, N.D. His career took him to Dickinson Trinity, where he brought the boys team to state twice, as well as Bison, Lemmon and Harding County in South Dakota.

In addition to being inducted into the Dickinson State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992, the North Dakota Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association honored Butterfield with a Special Achievement Award in June 2011. All the while, Butterfield was a substitute teacher and a rancher.

In 2013, he finally retired for good and in 2018, back on the Butterfield Ranch in Lodgepole, S.D., he lost his two-year battle with cancer at the age of 78. His service was held at Roberts-Reinke Auditorium and Gym at Hettinger School which, after Saturday, will have a new name. A name that will remind people of Butterfield's passion for the game and love of coaching it.