The first thing most people probably notice when meeting any member of the Butler family is their height. Parents - John Sr. and Casie - are both over 6’, John Jr. is 7’, Jordan is 6’9” (and still growing), and Josh is already a great deal taller than his peers in the fifth grade. However, what stands out just as quickly is their kind and gentle demeanors. While they are all forces to be reckoned with in their respective spaces - John Sr. as the Varsity Basketball Head Coach, Casie in the stands as a vocal encourager, and the three brothers as basketball players - they remain overwhelmingly thoughtful and humble in their approach to both life and the game of basketball.
Basketball runs deep in the Butler family; John Sr. and Casie played basketball in high school and beyond - for John, the military, and for Casie, on a full scholarship at the University of South Carolina - but both share that their love for the sport was shaped by parents. John Sr. calls his father a “standout player” and struggles to remember a time before basketball was introduced; it was just always a part of his life. For Casie, she shares that her mom wanted to play basketball, but because it was the 60’s, her mother (Casie’s grandmother) did not approve of the after school sport. When Casie started to play, she said her mom was “all in” and her parents were at all her high school games, drove her all over the state for AAU, and ensured she attended tournaments all over the country. Casie says her parents’ commitment to her success rubbed off on her and that she promised herself as a mother that she would do “whatever it took to help” her sons achieve their goals as they all pursued basketball.
The three Butler brothers are certainly “all in” when it comes to basketball now, but it intentionally did not start out that way. While John Sr. and Casie certainly hoped the boys would love basketball as much as they did, they wanted each boy to come to that decision on their own. They purposefully exposed the boys to a variety of sports and activities early on, including baseball, soccer, tae kwon do, and of course, basketball. They enjoyed everything they tried, but starting with John Jr., the boys all just took to the game of basketball both early on and very naturally.
John Butler Jr. ‘21 marks the age of four as the official beginning of his basketball career and comments, “I always just enjoyed playing basketball; it’s really fun for me.” Jordan ‘23 also started playing early on and shares that growing up in a “basketball family” was what made him want to start. While they are two years apart, they each attribute the other as a main reason they are the player they are today. They have spent countless hours practicing with and against one another over the years, from opponents in intense driveway one-on-one games to teammates on the CCES Varsity Basketball team. Jordan shares that John typically guards him in practice and really pushes him, making him into a better and more well-rounded player. John Jr. goes hard against his younger brother, knowing that if Jordan can consistently score against him, he’ll be able to perform well at the collegiate level in the future. While John takes his role of contributing to Jordan’s growth as a player seriously, he has a lot of praise for how Jordan has equally pushed him. He learned pretty early on that playing against Jordan isn’t as easy as he might have thought. He calls Jordan “not the typical little brother” with his size and already receiving interest and offers from Division 1 schools.
Some of John Sr. and Casie’s sweetest memories are from watching the two as teammates, starting from a very young age. When the family moved to Greenville, they were given the opportunity to start an AAU team for elementary students. John Jr. was in third grade, but since they didn’t have many players, Jordan played on the team as a first grader. John Sr. calls watching them play together at that age one of his “greatest experiences as a father.” They’ve come a long way since those early days to now playing in the competitive Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League), where they face the best players in the country. John Sr. shares that “sitting in the bleachers talking to former NBA players and college greats about how well my boys play often brings tears to my eyes.” Casie comments how much she’s enjoyed the process over the years, “watching them work so hard in the gym practicing, then transferring their skills into playing on the national circuit” and that it “fills her with joy” to watch them play.
For Josh ‘28, the youngest of the three, some of his earliest memories come from “sitting in the bleachers” watching his older brother play basketball and for as long as he can remember, he has wanted to do the same. He is currently playing and Casie describes Josh as having “very natural instincts,” which she believes comes from “watching his brothers play so much basketball.” Despite the age gap, John Jr. and Jordan are quick to include Josh, whether it’s a game in the driveway or lending advice after a game. The three also play a lot of board and video games together (notable favorites include: Monopoly and Uno) and Josh comments that “it’s always very competitive.” While there is always a lot of brotherly trash talk involved, he says it’s “really fun spending time with them.” Josh shares he’s “sad that it’s their last year with John at home” but is also excited to travel and watch him play. Some of his favorite family memories to date involve traveling as a family for basketball, as they’ve made many long drives for tournaments, and soon Tallahassee will become a regular destination to cheer on John Jr., who signed his letter of intent to play at Florida State next year.
While the three brothers certainly enjoy their time together, John Sr. and Casie make sure they get in on the competition too. John Sr. calls competition a “must” in their house. He says, “We do not live with a participation trophy mindset. The strong survive in the real world and that is what I teach. With that being said, I have to make sure we learn to win and lose with dignity. We teach the boys to respect their opponents and officials. Play to win and learn from losing is our slogan.” Casie adds that when the three play any type of game, they always play “until a winner surfaces” and that they “love winning bragging rights” over their brothers. She often puts together games for the family, but shares, “I have had to adjust the point system because they were getting too competitive.” Josh says they had a lot of competitions during the spring when things were shut down due to Covid-19, including badminton, ping pong and bocce ball. He shares that one of his favorite memories during that time was a nighttime pickup game in the driveway - John Sr., Casie and Josh vs. John Jr. and Jordan. When describing the game, Josh was lit up with excitement and it’s easy to see that the family manages to balance being ultra-competitive while also never wavering in their love and support for one another.
As the two older boys take the court for their last season on the same high school team, it will be a family affair. John Sr. is in his fourth season as the head coach of the varsity team and they have their sights set on winning a state championship. He stepped down from an Athletic Director position to be able to coach them and calls this experience one he “wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.” He admits he can be demanding, but his love “as a father is unconditional” and that ultimately, “it doesn’t matter what they do on the court.” While both John Jr. and Jordan agree that their dad is a tough coach, they are quick to point out how beneficial it has been for both of them; he is constantly pushing them because he wants the best for them as a dad first and as a coach second. Jordan says, “even though he gets on to me, I know it isn’t personal and I know that he will always do his best to put me in the best position to succeed.” John Jr. echos those sentiments, saying of his dad: “He has very high expectations so he is always going to push me to be the best I can no matter what, but I’m very thankful for that because my expectations for myself are also very high so I need someone like that to push me.”
Casie will continue to cheer them on like she set out to do all those years ago and this hasn’t come without sacrifice on her part. She was a varsity coach for many years, but when her games started conflicting with her sons’ games, she says, “I knew then, that I had to switch my focus and be available [for them].” Watching them play brings her great joy and because they are constantly growing as players, she never wants to miss a game. She wants to be there and see it all - from their special plays and post moves to their missed shots and rebounds - and being at every game gives her the ability to “relive every exciting moment and encourage them through the tough ones” when they talk about the games afterward. Having her as a consistent presence in the stands “means the world” to John Jr. who appreciates the effort she puts forth to get to all the games for all three and for the advice she lends as a former Division 1 player. Jordan calls it “amazing” to have his number one fan be his mom and echoes John’s sentiments, saying “she knows a lot about basketball and does throw in pointers and tips every now and then.”
The Butler family is one that, above all else, just enjoys spending time together. Yes, a lot of their time revolves around basketball - both playing and watching - or some form of competition, but through all the games, it’s clear how much they love one another. While John Jr. will soon be off to Tallahassee and a new chapter will begin, they are ready to cherish this season - sights set on winning a state championship - as a team and as a family.