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Change comes quickly for Triton coach

Butch McLean has plenty of experience, more than enough stamina, and the requisite X-and-O acumen of any coach. If only he had a little more time.

Butch McLean has plenty of experience, more than enough stamina, and the requisite X-and-O acumen of any coach.

If only he had a little more time.

McLean is in his first month coaching Triton's boys' basketball team. He was the head coach at Haddon Heights the last 12 seasons, and after parting ways with the Colonial Conference school, planned to be an assistant coach at Gloucester County College.

However, the Triton coaching job opened when Brian Rowan resigned to become an assistant athletic director at Gloucester County College.

McLean was then named Triton's coach, less than a month before preseason practice began Nov. 28.

"I wish I had another few weeks," McLean said. "But you can't believe how excited I am."

Anybody who knows a hoops lifer like McLean can believe his excitement level.

McLean, 57, retired as a teacher two seasons ago, so he is an adjunct coach at Triton. He has immersed himself in the sports community, attending various events.

Besides putting in his system for the team, there have been other obligations such as meeting with the booster club to generate more excitement for the program.

"We've been putting a lot of time in, and it's a heck of a challenge," he said. "Hopefully, all this work will pay dividends."

McLean said he hoped to have the program running the right course by mid-January. He has also set an ambitious goal of gaining a state tournament berth. Teams with a .500 or better record as of the Feb. 7 cutoff will qualify for the playoffs.

McLean didn't take this job with blinders.

Triton progressed under Rowan, but hasn't enjoyed an extended season since 1997-98. That was the last year the Mustangs had a winning record, going 14-11, and the last time the Mustangs qualified for the state tournament.

So while history may not be on McLean's side, enthusiasm surely is.

"Butch has been getting involved with the Triton community as much as he can," athletic director Bob Mannino said. "He's been at other activities and just brings a lot of energy to the program."

Triton won't have much size but should be able to have the up-tempo game McLean would like to employ.

The two veterans are junior point guard Chris Rice and senior forward Chaz Dyer, who at 6-foot-2 is likely to be the tallest starter.

Rice could move to the off-guard spot with the continued development of sophomore point guard Chris Cottrell. Other players of note are 6-1 junior swingman Josh Daniluk and the Simmons brothers. Will Simmons is a 5-11 senior guard, and Davon Simmons a 5-11 junior guard.

There are likely others who could emerge in a rotation McLean might not have down pat by tonight's opener at Shawnee.

"The hardest part is you don't want to cheat the kids in scrimmages," and must try to give them as much time as possible so they can be evaluated, McLean said.

"After three scrimmages, you have to go with a group you are comfortable [with] for some sort of rotation," he said.

There will likely be tweaking as the season goes on.

But even though time isn't on his side, McLean appreciates the opportunity to coach in the Olympic Conference.

He understands that in the Patriot Division, with the likes of Shawnee, Winslow Township and Timber Creek, the defending South Jersey Group 3 champion, nothing will come easy.

Right now, he's just excited to be applying his craft in one of the best conferences in South Jersey.

There will be time later to dwell on how he did about four months of work in his first month. A new season in new surroundings is beginning, and McLean has time only to look squarely ahead.