Young nears 400 wins, really Boys basketball: The veteran Meade coach has thought he was near the magic mark a couple times before, but fate intervened, and thus, the road to a rarefied career record has been rocky.

February 14, 1997|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Never has the trek to 400 career wins been as frustrating and bizarre as the path Ronald "Butch" Young has been on.

Young, who is in his 20th season as varsity coach at Meade and his 30th in the county (he coached Severna Park 10 years), has been on the doorstep of his 400th too many times to believe.

"Hard earned" will be an understatement for the 58-year-old Young when he finally becomes the county's third coach -- and the state's 12th -- to reach the milestone. His record today is 399 wins, 277 losses, a .590 winning percentage. It should be noted that he also coached the old Brooklyn Park High School's JV for four years, with a 62-18 record.

The easy-going Young, philosophical after so many years of coaching, downplays the importance 400 varsity wins might have for him as his Mustangs (8-11, 3-4 in the North Division) try to win one more. They are scheduled to host Division-leading Chesapeake (10-9, 7-0) at 5 p.m. today, and then have two more regular season games, plus playoffs, ahead of them.

"I don't think it's frustrating," said Young, changing the subject to his 1979-1980 team. "It was a big deal the year we had Kendel Matthews and we go 14-9 and beat Annapolis -- and I don't know how we weren't 0-20."

But then he acknowledged that winning 400 "might be a big deal once you've quit coaching."

Coaching on a military base with a constantly shifting student body, Young has learned that annual transfers of his players and academic ineligibility come with the territory. But nothing has been as perplexing as the bizarre series of events that have rebuffed his several chances at 400.

Just Tuesday, for example, the Mustangs, who had won two in a row, hosted Old Mill with a seemingly great shot at winning No. 400. Hit by academic ineligibility, Old Mill came in with just seven players dressed -- and spoiled the party, defeating Meade, 52-47.

Three years ago, Young seemed on the verge of ringing up No. pTC 400 -- before the bookkeeping on his varsity years was refined. Instead of being so close to 400 wins, as had been briefly thought, Young was at least one season away. His team finished the 1993-1994 campaign at 11-11, leaving his career record at 378-234.

After going 9-13 in 1994-1995, Young took a 387-247 record into last season. In last year's final regular season game, at Glen Burnie, Meade upset the Gophers, 57-54, to run its record to 12-10. Glen Burnie's veteran public address announcer Max Powers erroneously announced: "Congratulations to Meade coach Butch Young on his 400th career win."

Even Young's wife, Barbara, thought it was No. 400 that day.

But it wasn't. Unfortunately, a reporter told her the record was 399-257.

Young would get another chance the following Tuesday in the region quarterfinals against Chesapeake, but the Mustangs were upset.

So, it looked as if the coach would start this season -- his 30th as a varsity coach -- needing only one more win to crack 400. But last spring, it was discovered that Meade had used an ineligible player, a discovery that turned into eight forfeits, with Meade's record was adjusted from 12-11 to 4-19 -- leaving the coach's record 391-266 at the start of the current season.

Southern's Tom Albright (461-270 over 32 seasons) and John Brady of Annapolis (411-78 in 20) are the only other county boys coaches to achieve 400 wins. Morgan Wootten, who is in his 41st season at DeMatha in Hyattsville, is the state and nation's all-time winningest coach with over 1,100 wins.

'Butch is good people'

Young is from the town of Barton in Allegany County and played on the unique Valley High state championship basketball teams in 1956 and 1957.

A teammate on those teams was Cokie Robertson, and the coach was John Meyers. Robertson, coach at St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown, and Meyers, who retired in 1982, are already in the 400-win club.

Robertson is 560-317 in 29 years of coaching in high school -- 23 of them at Goretti. He also coached at Westminster and Thomas Johnson in Frederick, as well as six years at the junior college level.

"Butch is good people, comes from good stock, good country background like John [Meyers]," said Robertson. Meyers was 517-277 (.651) in 34 seasons, winning a state-record seven state titles at Central-Lonaconing and Valley High schools (now Westmar High in Lonaconing) in the Cumberland area. "Butch was a good player -- small, but very fast, with an excellent shot led the league in scoring," said Meyers. "I always thought he would make an excellent coach. He was a three-sport star at Valley."

Young also played soccer and baseball. He played soccer during an era when Meyers-coached Valley set a then-national record of 52 games over seven years without losing.

"Butch played three varsity years each in soccer and basketball, and four years of varsity baseball," said Meyers. "He had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates his senior year but played all three sports at Frostburg State."

After graduating from Frostburg, Young began a 35-year physical education teaching career at Brooklyn Park.

At Meade, Young's teams have won 20 games or more six times, the best in 1982-1983 and 1987-1988 (23-2 each) and the last in 1992-1993 (21-5).

Young took his Mustangs to the state championships at Cole Field House in College Park in each of those three seasons; his 1992-1993 team was runnerup to Largo in Class 4A.

He was the county's Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1993. After also being named the The Sun's All-Metro Coach of the Year in 1992-1993, he considered retiring because of health problems. But he battled back from the medical difficulties, and his wife (also a teacher for 35 years) talked him out of retiring.

Young retired from teaching at the start of last semester and is not sure how much longer he will coach. Hopefully, he will get that elusive No. 400 before he says goodbye.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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