A career worth remembering

After 43 years coaching soccer, Ron Butcher takes his career onto new playing fields


Ron Butcher’s office is messy.

Books, binders and notebooks fill the cramped space that Butcher has called home since he arrived at Keene State College to coach the men’s soccer team in 1970.  They cover the surface of his desk, jam the bookshelves and spill out of boxes onto the floor.  They hold pieces of a long and enormously successful career that, as of Wednesday, November 6, has come to an end.

The numbers begin to tell the story of a connection between coach and community.  Butcher finished with 596 victories at KSC, he also led the school to 31 postseason tournaments and had countless moments that might define a less celebrated career.

But there is no number to measure the impact he’s had on the lives of his current and former players.  When it comes to his legacy, Butcher said that means more than anything else.

“I want to be remembered as a coach who cared about kids, who tried to help kids, who shaped their lives, who helped them find a job,” Butcher said.  “To me that’s most important, wins and losses come and go.”

The wins were mostly coming during Butcher’s 43 years here, with his final career-winning percentage sitting at 64.1 percent.

On the morning of his final game, Butcher at first dismissed the weight of the occasion, but it is hard not to look back on such a remarkable and storied career.

Photo Illustration by: Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

Photo Illustration by: Brian Cantore / Photo Editor

“I’ve had forty-three years of memories that I will always cherish,” Butcher said.

Usually brief and to the point, the coach was in a unique position to be self-reflective.

If there was any specific moment when the winning tradition started, Butcher reasoned that perhaps it was in the fall of 1971 during his second season.

The ’71 team still peppers the KSC record books, with their shots (813), assists (90) and goals (117) holding the top spots all-time for a single season.

“That was a very special team,” Butcher said.

They would ride a 19-1 record to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 32 Championship, a season he will never forget. “You always remember that group because they’re the ones who started you on the road to success,” Butcher said.

However, that’s not to say Butcher’s road at KSC has always been smooth.  The coach said he learned to take the good with the bad during his time at the school.

There were personality clashes with players, seasons (like this year) derailed by injuries and of course the contentious decision to move KSC down to division three in 1993.

Twenty years later, Butcher still won’t let his opinion on the matter subside.

“I wanted out of here bad [when they made the D-III decision], and I still believe that Division II is the right avenue for KSC,” Butcher said.

The coach even admitted to applying to other coaching jobs at the time, before realizing that the grass isn’t always greener at other institutions.

But no matter what level of competition KSC soccer was put into, the wins continued to come.

Butcher has found success across divisions, conferences and decades.

When the Little Eastern Conference was formed in 1997, the soccer team never missed a beat: Butcher finished with six LEC championships.

It’s not hard to find people to pay tribute to the coach.

Senior Bryce Lawlor said Butcher was a big reason why he came to KSC.  “It’s a legacy that you’re never going to find again,” Lawlor said.  “He’s the most winningest coach in NCAA D-III soccer history.”

Lawlor said Butcher always pushed him to be better. “He helped me improve on my game in areas I didn’t even think I needed to improve on,” Lawlor said.   “He wouldn’t let me settle for complacency.”

Lawlor plans to join a list of over 200 players that Butcher has coached to graduate in the spring.

Already on that list is 1987 KSC graduate, Adam Clinton.

“He genuinely cared about his players, even though sometimes you weren’t sure until after the fact,” Clinton said. “He made sure everyone got their degree. I know he stayed on me to get mine. He taught me a lot in terms of the value of hard work.”

Butcher’s influence goes beyond his former players.  Butcher said he has built a bond with the entire town of Keene.  “It’s not just the players, it’s all of the community people that I’ve gotten emails and congratulation cards from,” Butcher said.  “Because they read about you everyday, they know you.”

Now the coach is facing life outside of KSC soccer. He said he’s not sure what he’ll do after he leaves Keene, but plans to keep a strong relationship to the school where he has worked for most of his life.

“You’re always going to remain close because it’s your baby, you’re the guy who built the program and you want to see it succeed,” Butcher said.  “There will always be a place in my heart for Keene State.”

The coach doesn’t pretend to think his achievements immortalize him.  In fact, Butcher modestly predicted that his legacy will be short-lived.

“Fame is fleeting, it doesn’t last long,” Butcher said. “Within six months no one will know who I am unless they look it up in a record book or they see me in a tape.”

Presently the coach faces one last challenge at KSC: he must clean out his office. Butcher said he won’t leave much in terms of papers or books for his successor, but a program with such a rich history is more than any aspiring coach could ask for.

“When you hear KSC soccer, the first thing you think of is Ron Butcher,” Clinton said.

Odds are an empty office won’t change that.


Zach Winn can be contacted at zwinn@keene-equinox.com

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