Ranch & Coast Magazine

December 2023

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Page 126 of 147

"I think you always have to have high expectations," said Dutcher, who's led the team since taking the reins from his former boss, the legendary Steve Fisher, upon his retirement in 2017. "I would never go into the year and say we couldn't be better. Our intention is to be better than we were last year. Now, whether that leads to more wins, deeper runs, only time will tell on that, but we have to believe that we're going to be good in order to be good." And believe they do — Butler ventured his own prediction, seeing both a Mountain West and tournament championship in 2024 as well as a deep run in the NCAA tournament — but the overarching emphasis for the players remains the team, not the trophy. "My favorite part about being on this team is the bonds and friendships I've made," said Butler. LeDee noted camaraderie; Dutcher even referred to last season's chemistry as a "brotherhood." "I learned a long time ago, if you surround yourself with good people, good things can happen. I was surrounded by great people and great things happened," Dutcher said. Now, Dutcher will be looking to these elder statesmen to build on both that chemistry and their experience to guide his squad back to the top. "I think the veterans always provide a presence where there's no situation in basketball that they haven't been through," he said. "Whether it's the highest high or the lowest low, they've experienced them all, and when you have veterans returning, they can pass that on to the young team. All that experience will hopefully lead to great success for this year's Aztec team." As for how he thinks their success, both past and future, might go down in the school's history books, Dutcher's mindset remains firmly in the present. "I'll worry about legacy when I'm done coaching," he said, sagely. "Right now I'm just focused on the daily, and that's getting better today in practice, that's getting better as the year goes on, and that's having another good season of Aztec basketball." Assistant coaches Chris Acker, Dave Velasquez, and JayDee Luster stand amid the rewards of the Aztec Men's Basketball team's truly banner season Lamont Butler Jan and Brian Dutcher @ranchandcoast

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