Two seasons and 29 losses into his career as a varsity boys basketball coach, Butch Young assessed the damage and asked himself, "What am I doing here?"
Never before had he put himself on the spot with such a question. Success always had come so easily. Two state championships as a player at Valley High in Western Maryland, and a 62-18 record in four seasons as coach of Brooklyn Park's junior varsity team.
Those prosperous times seemed a distant memory, though, when his first two Severna Park teams were being pushed around on a nightly basis. But that would change. The victories became more frequent in his third season, and after 10 years, his record stood at a respectable 112-100.
As it turned out, Young knew exactly what he was doing.
Now, in his 17th season at Meade, and his 27th overall on the varsity level, Young is about to become only the second coach in Anne Arundel County to reach 400 victories, joining Southern's Tom Albright. Friday night's win over North County left him just one shy of a milestone that he tries to play down.
"It just means you've been around a long while," he said. "I never gave it much thought."
Young's thoughts last season were on winning his first Class 4A state championship in three tries, which Meade nearly did before losing in the final, and of his health.
He missed three games after being admitted to North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie with severe headaches and blurred vision. He prefers not to discuss the illness, but says, "Everything's fine now."
"I just lost a lot of blood," he said. "First day in the hospital they gave me two units of blood. The next day was two more, and the following day was another one. That's five units of blood in three days. No wonder I was chalky."
Speculation began to mount that Young, 54, would retire after last season. The timing seemed right. Graduation would leave this year's team inexperienced and a long shot to make it back to the states. And the pressure, aggravation and crazy schedule that accompany the job no longer were chipping away at him; they were taking large chunks.
And with his insistence that reaching 400 wins wasn't that important, why not let the magic of last season -- the 21 victories and the flirtation with a state title -- be an appropriate farewell?
"He blames me for coming back," said Young's wife, Barbara, a teacher at North County. "I just didn't want him to quit. We both have the same amount of years  so we could both quit. He wanted me to quit and I didn't want to, and I didn't want him to, so we just didn't.
"He really did want to quit, but then sometimes he says, well, he has to rebuild and he can't leave in that kind of a situation where they don't have much, so he has to stick around for a couple more years. Then he gets disgusted and he's not going to go back this day or that day."
He nearly reached that point after the opening game, when Meade lost to Suitland, 86-38. "I went in and grabbed [Barbara] right by the neck and told her it was all her fault," he said, laughing.
"I gave [retirement] some thought after last season, but at my age, what are you supposed to do? It's not like I have a lot of hobbies. I hate to play golf, and my shoulder's getting so bad I can't play tennis any more."
When asked if he is making the year-by-year decision to return, Young laughed and said, "I take it day by day. I might leave tomorrow."
Senior guard Dennis Jenks said, "We were expecting him back. He loves the game and he's not ready to give it up."
Friday night's win left Meade at 6-3, but Young knows the numbers are deceiving. He fears that the losses will begin to pile up in the next couple weeks, beginning with tomorrow's game at Old Mill, unless his players learn to handle the ball and to make better decisions on the court. And even if that happens, the Mustangs usually will be at a size disadvantage, with the tallest starter being 6-foot-1 forward Teddy Brent.
Fortunately for Young, whose career record is 399-206 and includes 16 winning seasons at Meade, he's always been flexible enough to alter his style of coaching and game plans to suit his personnel.
The Mustangs' season took a turn for the better on Dec. 14, when they upset Glen Burnie, 54-53. That started a four-game winning streak that ended with a loss to the Gophers in the final of Meade's Christmas Tournament.
"Every time you step on the floor against Meade, you know you're going up against a well-coached team that's always going to play hard," said Glen Burnie coach Terry Bogle. "I've probably contributed a lot to his 400."
Like other coaches at Meade, Young has seen plenty of his athletes leave the school, which serves the Fort Meade military community, because their parents became stationed elsewhere. He still is waiting for someone to arrive -- preferably a 7-footer with soft hands and quick feet -- who can contribute immediately.
No matter how many players come and go, the Mustangs -- and Young -- keep winning.
"I didn't really think I was going to get into coaching. I tried to avoid it," he said. "I had a pretty good idea of the time constraints."
L He just never imagined that 400 victories would be possible.