Caron Butler spent nearly two decades attempting to make it back to the Miami Heat after he was dealt in 2003 to the Los Angeles Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal.
There now, again, is a front-row seat with the Heat for the team’s 2002 first-round pick.
Butler confirmed Friday to the Sun Sentinel that he has agreed to join Erik Spoelstra’s coaching staff, taking the place of assistant coach Dan Craig, who departed to join the new staff of Tyronn Lue with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Butler, 40, joins fellow former Heat players Chris Quinn, Malik Allen and Anthony Carter on Spoelstra’s staff, which also features Octavio De La Grana.
“Honestly, I just felt like it was my calling,” Butler told the Sun Sentinel. “When Coach Spo had reached out, he reached out at a time that I was pondering what was going to be my next thing.”
The move to Butler continues the revamping of Spoelstra’s staff, with Juwan Howard leaving prior to the 2019-20 season to become coach at the University of Michigan and David Fizdale previously leaving to become coach of the Memphis Grizzlies and then the New York Knicks.
Since leaving the NBA in 2016 after a 14-season career that included stops with the Heat, Lakers, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings, Butler moved on to several entrepreneurial interests as well as a broadcasting career with Turner Sports.
“I always had a relationship with the Miami Heat organization, from Pat Riley, Spo,” said Butler, drafted No. 10 out of Connecticut in 2002. “But most of all, I always wanted to be on the sidelines.”
Butler previously had auditioned for the team’s television commentary job that went to John Crotty at the start of the 2018-19 season.
In the interim, he remained in contact with Spoelstra.
“Then this opportunity presented itself,” Butler said, “and a couple of months ago, Spo reached out after the end of the season and I congratulated him at the end of the season and he told me, ‘Hey, we’d love to have you.’ And this time I had no contractual commitments.
“I was like, ‘Damn, let’s do it.’ He was shocked. And I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
Butler said returning to the team’s culture would be natural since he often was asked to help import it to his subsequent NBA stops.
“I know I can be an asset to the organization, because one, I played for the organization,” he said. “I know what the culture is all about. I know what the organization stands for, with the Godfather, Pat Riley, and their commitment to excellence.”
Heat captain Udonis Haslem, whose 2003-04 rookie season was Butler’s second and final with the Heat, embraced the hiring.
“It’s something that Coach Spo talked about, somebody I had as a mentor early on,” Haslem said. “Not that they needed my blessing, but it was somebody who brought me under his wing. When they talk about OGs, Caron showed me what it was to be a professional, not just be a professional, but a professional with the Miami Heat.”
While the coaching will begin with the Dec. 1 start of training camp, Butler said he already has been on the clock.
“From Day One, I’m going to be invested,” he said. “I’m invested right now, watching film, going over the draft choices. And December 1st, I’m all in.”
He paused and laughed about how it previously ended, in the 2004 offseason, after the wild ride alongside during Dwyane Wade’s rookie season.
“It took a long time,” he said.
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