PALATINE, Ill. – Back in the mid 1970s, the Harper College men's basketball team played their home games at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights because the fieldhouse at Harper burned down. A young Wally Butman, a graduate of Conant High School, began his college basketball career at Harper College playing for Roger Bechtold. Little did Butman know things would come full circle and that he would be coaching at the college where he first received an opportunity to play.
Butman earned team MVP honors for the Hawks in 1976 and graduated from Harper with his Associate of Arts degree in Education. He moved on to Northern Illinois University and played AAU basketball while pursuing his Bachelor of Education degree.
Butman discovered his passion for coaching after graduation from NIU, as he taught and coached at the junior high and high school level for six years before moving into the business world. Currently, Butman is the Vice President of Sales at Buffalo Grove-based Profile Products, a manufacturer of erosion control and sports field products, where he has been for the last 10 years.
He credits his experience at Harper as having a huge impact on his career path, leading him to success. While Butman thrived in the business world and seemed to have left coaching basketball behind, a young Justin Welke began his coaching career in Evanston.
Butman had been long-time family friends with the Welkes and began following Justin's coaching career. He was very impressed with what he saw.
"I went to a number of the games and I found his coaching style and work ethic to be really great and refreshing," he said.
Welke was hired to be the new coach of the Hawks in mid-April. He didn't hesitate to ask Butman, who lives in Crystal Lake with his wife Eileen, to help out with the Harper program.
"This was a great opportunity to connect with him here and help out," Butman said. "Student-athletes have a lot at their disposal, and it's fantastic. To be a part of it and be able to help some of the young student-athletes is a flashback and a real dream come true."
Butman relishes the opportunity to help new student-athletes on their basketball journey. Looking at his experience at Harper, he still is very close with former teammates Steve Schmidt and Gary Davis and plans on inviting alumni back to support the program.
Butman, Welke, and their other assistant, Mauricio Vaca, have put together some creative things to help players develop as students and athletes to get them to the next level.
"I know from personal experience they'll reflect on it years from now and say 'boy that Harper experience was fantastic.' Hopefully I can be a part of that."