CHAPEL HILL – Butler will look to replace an impressive senior class while defending its state title next season, but perhaps no loss will be felt more than that of defensive coordinator Steve Shaughnessy.
Shaughnessy, a 14-year veteran of the Bulldogs’ coaching staff, said after the game that he won’t return to the Butler sidelines next fall.
“I’ve been planning this since last year,” Shaughnessy said. “I knew that, with this senior class, I’d reached my limit in teaching and retirement, so I decided this would be a good time to (step away). I’ve known it all along.”
Shaughnessy was the head coach at Catawba College from 1980 to 1982 and was an assistant coach at Clemson before successful head-coaching stints at South Mecklenburg, Garinger and Providence Day. In 15 years as a high school head coach, Shaughnessy posted a 103-61 record.
Shaughnessy might’ve saved his best performance for last this season, as the Bulldogs defense forced a school-record 51 turnovers, including 23 recovered fumbles and 28 interceptions (also a school record). The team also allowed a paltry average of 8.5 points per game.
While Shaughnessy hadn’t formally announced his decision before the championship game, linebacker Sean Wiggins said the players had an idea the coach was leaning toward retirement, which made sending him out on a high note a priority.
“Nothing better could’ve happened,” Wiggins said. “To send a coach like that out with a win, that’s the best thing we could’ve done.”
Added defensive back David Moore: “(Shaughnessy) added a whole other level of competition out there on defense. He’s a defensive guru, he’s a genius. He’s a great coach, and he’s contributed a lot to us. I’m going to miss him.”
That impact, said head coach Brian Hales, stretched well beyond the players.
“He’s been such a mentor to all of us,” said Hales. “He shows us what it’s like to be a coach and the effort it takes and the commitment there is to it. I know I’m a better coach just from being around him.”
For Shaughnessy, the decisive title-game win was the perfect way to end his time with the Bulldogs.
“We’ve just got an awesome bunch of players and coaches,” Shaughnessy said. “I’ve been lucky to be at Butler for 14 years, and we’ve averaged 11 wins a year because we’ve had tremendous coaches, tremendous kids, a great administration. I can’t say enough about everybody surrounding our program. It’s been a true experience of a lifetime.”