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The Beginnings of History: Coach Phoenix Butler-Poole and St. Anselm’s Basketball

This year, St. Anselm’s Varsity Basketball entered a season of renewal. The team returned five players from the 2020 Varsity team, but it had not played a competitive game in over a year and had lost its coach. The time was perfect for a reboot, and the athletic department found the right man to orchestrate it: Coach Phoenix Butler-Poole. Coach Phoenix was, in many ways, an ideal candidate for the St. Anselm’s job. A Silver Spring native, he was the starting quarterback at Springbrook High School, and he ultimately went on to play football at Frostburg State. However, due to an injury, he ultimately switched sports (and colleges), playing basketball first at Montgomery College and then at Division II Chowan University, which is also the alma mater of Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan. Early in the season, the mood surrounding the team was noticeably positive. It was clear that Coach

Phoenix’s arrival was well received by the players. The season itself was not perfect, but it was nonetheless a strong one. The team finished 11-10, going 5-5 in regular-season conference play and making the St. Anselm’s Invitational Tournament final, where they lost to Avalon in a 63-58 nail-biter. However, these accomplishments paled in comparison to the team’s DCSAA Class A Boys Basketball State Tournament run, in which they advanced to the semi finals, and lost another close game to Bard. This run marked the first time St. Anselm’s won a game at the state tournament in many years, if not the first time in the school’s history. This is even more impressive in light of the fact that St. Anselm’s did not even win a state tournament game in 2019, when the team was at one point on the bubble in The Washington Post’s ranking of the top 20 teams in the D.C. area. Thus, Coach Phoenix’s first season was an extremely successful one which showed that he very much has the program trending upward. It is telling that, when I recently watched the broadcast of the Bard game, the commentators remarked on St. Anselm's effort and fighting spirit. They were seeing the truth: Coach Coach Phoenix is building a strong team with guts to match their talent. However, Coach Phoenix has done more than simply build a successful team who can win big games. He has been an outstanding addition to the St. Anselm's community in general.

His success as a player is inspirational. His kindness to those around him, and his willingness to engage with his players and the ties he has built with them are a testament to him as a person. He has engaged with those outside of the team as well; making time to help at Middle School practices and always being a welcoming presence. His dedication to the school is also apparent, as it is clear that he is committed to strengthening the basketball program at St. Anselm’s. It is no surprise that his players work so hard for him. And having seen his success in this, his first year, I am excited to see what he does as he continues to spend time coaching the program. One thing is for sure: The future of St. Anselm’s basketball with Coach Phoenix is exciting to imagine.

Interview with Coach Phoenix Butler-Poole:

(Conducted by Dash Tischler, Form VI)

DT: What most interested you about the St. Anselm's job?

PBP: Initially it was the facilities that were most appealing, and then it was the faculty and the students.

DT: Looking back on the season, what are your thoughts?

PBP: I am extremely pleased with how this season went. I believe we showed a tremendous amount of growth both on and off the court, we laid a foundation for the years to come, and most importantly we had a lot of fun!

DT: Who are some of your favorite NBA/College teams? Who are some of your favorite basketball players?

PBP: My favorite teams are the Miami Heat and the Maryland Terrapins. I was a big Dwade fan which brought me to the heat but the culture and the way they play defense has kept me. UMD gets the nod because it’s the home team lol

DT: What was it like to play football and basketball in college?

PBP: Playing football and bball in college was an incredible experience. It taught me the value of hard work and perseverance. Making the switch from football to basketball at the collegiate level was challenging but with dedication and hard work it all worked out. That process taught me that anything can be achieved if you put the work in.

DT: Who are some coaches in pro or college sports who you seek to emulate? What is it that you appreciate about their styles of coaching?

PBP: A couple of coaches that I try to emulate are Coach Spo (Miami Heat) and Coach Nate Oates from Alabama. There are a couple of local coaches that have inspired me as well. Coach Desmond Wade from Blake high school is one of many!

Interview with Walter Heiser, Form VI, Member of the Varsity Team:

Conducted by Dash Tischler, Form VI

DT: What is it like to play for coach Phoenix?

WH: Playing for coach Phoenix is a wonderful experience. He assures that you grow as a disciplined player and always brings the best of you. He instills a value of GRIT within the team and has us mentally prepared to give our all on the court.

DT: What have you learned from him?

WH: I have learned to be much more dedicated in all my endeavors from Coach Phoenix. He has led by example in showing us how to put maximum effort and dedication into things we truly care about.

DT: How has he impacted the St. Anselm’s program?

WH: As a first year Coach at the Abbey, he has fit right in. He has done a remarkable job thus far. He has established and promulgated a culture of working hard while having fun. The school will be blessed to have him for many years down the line.