Coach Butch McAdams: He Never Cried Foul!

Harold BellContributor IIIJune 9, 2009

Butch McAdams is a native Washingtonian. He lived and grew up at the corner of 14th and T Streets NW right in the middle of the historical U and 14th Street corridors. He was raised in the Catholic faith and educated at St. Augustine and Mackin High Schools in NW Washington, DC.

The Priest and Co-Pastors of St. Augustine were Fathers Raymond Kemp and Andre Bouchard.  In 1967 I was working as a Roving Leader for the DC Department of Recreation and one of my assigned work sites was Harrison Playground.

The Rectory was located at 14th and V Streets, NW and the playground was one block away. My travels often brought me to the front doorsteps of the Rectory of St. Paul and Augustine Church. Fathers Kemp and Bouchard were icons in the community and I usually stopped by and kissed their rings when I was in the neighborhood (smile).

The historical landmarks in Butch’s community were all in walking distance of his home. The landmarks were the Bohemian Caverns, 12TH Street YMCA, and the Dunbar Hotel. The Lincoln and Republic theatres were the community’s main movie outlets.

The live entertainment seen at the Howard Theatre and Turners Arena was off the charts. Black Washington dined and hung out at the Florida Ave Grill, Keys, Hollywood, Faces and Cecilia’s Restaurants and last but not least, Ben’s Chilli Bowl.

There are some landmarks still standing and others are long gone. The neighborhood has changed and so have the people, for better or worst is all in the eye of the beholder.

There were other landmarks like Cardozo High School, Harrison Playground, Harrison Elementary and the Hillcrest Children’s Center Saturday Program. They helped shape Butch McAdam’s life and connected the two of us.

Harrison playground was where most of the neighborhood playground basketball legends gathered in the evenings after work and on the weekends. Harrison was the home playground of the Scott family. Rip and Bo Scott were basketball legends.

Butch was one of the many young spectators who watched and learned from the legends of Harrison Playground.

I have spent the last decade writing and talking about the benefactors of Kids In Trouble, Inc and Inside Sports who have forgotten. The media icons and pro athletes are too long to list for this column. 

I had completely overlooked the ONE who had not forgotten. This is one of the best examples; “Not being able to see the forest for the trees.”

On Friday June 5, 2009 Maret High School hosted a retirement party for Butch. He retired after 31 years as a teacher of Physical Education and the school’s Head Basketball Coach.

In attendance was former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich.  The son and grandson of the legendary Perrin Mitchell, former Senator Clarence Mitchell III came all the way from Baltimore on crutches after recent hip replacement with his son Clarence Mitchell IIII to honor their friend. 

Former Maryland University basketball coach Bob Wade and former Baltimore Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm were also in the standing room only crowd.  Childhood friends Mike Riley, Larry Watson, Bruce Williams, Gerome Miller, Ron Davis, and Radio One gospel and TV host Jeff Majors were all on hand to say “Congratulations and job well done.”

Growing up in the U and 14th Street corridors helped prepare Butch as a coach and teacher. He has touched thousands of young people in his 31 years at Maret. His most important lesson had nothing to do with sports. He taught his students the most important game being played in the World today is, “The Game Called Life.”

My experiences as a Roving Leader and the founder of Hillcrest Children’s Center Saturday Program caused me many “Excedrin” headaches.  Butch was never a headache or Kid In Trouble. Thanks to his parents and St. Paul and Augustine he was always a little gentleman. He understood early it was okay to be seen and not heard. 

The foundation for being a decent human being had already been laid when I met him as a younster at Harrison Playground.

In 1992 he became a one of a kind radio sports talk show personality at WOL Radio. Unlike others in the media who became experts on the black community after getting their own talk shows or newspaper columns, Butch brought his community credentials with him (U Street, Harrison Playground, Hillcrest Children Center Saturday Program, Kids In Trouble, Inc. etc).

He used his radio talk show to broaden his community base to help make children really First. He is presently the co-host of a daily morning radio talk show with Larry Young aired on WOLB 1010 A.M. in Baltimore. 

Like most sports shows heard in America "The Coach Butch McAdams Show" sounded similar to 'Inside Sports.'  Maybe there was a lesson taught.

The lessons learned at St. Paul and Augustine, Harrison and Hillcrest were helpful when he became an all in one teacher, coach and radio talk show host. Butch understood the importance of role models. First they came from the home. He never forgot hearing NBA Legend Spencer Haywood on "Inside Sports" saying

'If you have got to look beyond your dinner table for your heroes and role models you are in trouble.'

Butch would later tell me he never gave it a second thought when sporting personalities visited the Saturday Program like Spencer, Larry Brown, Roy Jefferson, Harold McLinton, Ted Vactor, Dave Bing, Jim Brown, Red Auerbach, Earl Monroe, Fatty Taylor, John Thompson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Chuck Hinton, Fred Valentine, Willie Wood, Petey Greene, Bill Raspberry and a host of others.

As a youngster Butch was under the impression that this was the norm in community programs around DC.

I remember Butch asking me after he became a well known radio personality, “Harold where and how did you come up with the saying "Every black face you see is not your brother and every white face you see is not your enemy."

This was a popular phrase I used to close my sports talk show "Inside Sports." I had to take him back to the Hillcrest Children’s Center Saturday program. I reminded him of the 1968 riots and when I first opened the doors to the Saturday Program.

I tried to recruit black students at Howard University to volunteer and take a 10 minute walk from the campus to Hillcrest to tutor elementary school students. There were none to be found.

The Director of Hillcrest Children’s Center Dr. Nicholas Long introduced me to the Principal of the Seven Day Adventist School in Takcoma Park, Maryland. The rest is community history.

On Saturdays, a group of white teenagers were bussed into the inner-city to tutor black children (joining Redskins Larry Brown, Roy Jefferson, Harold McLinton and Ted Vactor).

Today, all over America, college students are given credits for volunteering. I also reminded him of my unique relationship with NBA Legendary coach Red Auerbach and the benefactors of Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports all who were black.

They all forgot who they were and where they came from. They inspired the phrase, “Every black face I see is not my brother and every white face I see is not my enemy.”

Butch would often close his show with my phrase and remind everyone that I coined it. This is unheard of in this business where everyone takes someone else’s idea and uses it as if it were their very own (case in point Inside Sports). It reminds me of the story of Christopher Columbus discovering America with Native Indians already occupying the land.

Butch is very unique. There were times when I would question his response and observations as it related to his sports talk show. He never took it personal. A very endearing quality not often found in Black Men in America.

We take everything personal and when we do take a stand it is usually for all the wrong reasons. Butch McAdams, you are a unique COACH in “The Game Called Life.”

He learned early the difference between Constructive Criticism and Destructive Criticism.  I gave him the same advice my grandmother gave when I first went on the air she said, "Son, always tell the the truth.  A LIE will change a thousand times the TRUTH never changes."  Those were words to live by for me.

NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Earl Lloyd was heard telling talk show host John Thompson when he mentioned my name on his show, "Harold Bell maybe controversial but I have yet to hear anyone call him a lie."  There was no media coverage as he reached this professional milestone, but Butch refused to cry foul. 

"If you are traveling a long road and you are scared of the TRUTH, take the next exit that reads Road to Nowhere."  Coach Butch McAdams, job well done.


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