New Barry University coach Butch Estes is one of the few college coaches around who could accurately refer to 63-year-old Jim Larranaga as “that young guy.”
Now Estes, 64, hopes to be as successful on the Division II level as Larranaga was at the University of Miami last season.
“I think there’s a real value to having an older, more experienced coach,” Estes said. “If you look at the coaches that are making the Final Four, most are 50-plus [in age].”
Estes has been plenty successful in a basketball career that began as a 6-3 wing who was recruited by University of North Carolina assistant — and future NBA coach — Larry Brown. Estes was never good enough to play for the Tar Heels’ varsity, and after two years legendary coach Dean Smith made him an offer.
That’s how Estes became a graduate assistant, coaching players such as future NBA standout Bobby Jones and future NBA coach George Karl.
“That experience gave me my foundation in coaching,” Estes said. “Even all these years later, it all goes back to Dean Smith.”
Estes went on to earn his master’s degree at The Citadel, where his roommate was Mike Montgomery, now the coach at California. Estes became a head coach at Presbyterian in 1980 and followed that by coaching at Furman, Guilford and Miami Dade College (2003 to 2006).
The stint at MDC began Estes’ love affair with South Florida. He was an assistant coach at UM for one season (2006-07) and is coming off the most successful run of his career at Palm Beach State (2010 to 2013), where he won three consecutive conference titles and was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally among junior colleges.
Still, Estes jumped at the chance to coach at Barry.
“I’m so excited to get the opportunity to coach a four-year school in the community where we want to live,” said Estes, whose wife, Tonya, is an executive producer for the Channel 4 news team. “I’m like a kid at Christmas.”
Estes is a jovial sort. Referencing his wife’s job, Estes joked that Channel 4 sports anchor Jim Berry “better give us great coverage at Barry.”
Told that Shaquille O’Neal recently received an honorary degree from Barry, Estes suggested that the wealthy Shaq would make an excellent booster club president.
Estes, though, is serious about basketball. He added nine recruits to the four Barry returning players, and an adjustment period is expected.
“Everyone is new to our system, so it’s like having 13 freshmen in terms of the learning curve,” Estes said.
Magne Fivelstad, a 6-6 senior forward, is the only returning starter. He averaged 10 points and 6.5 rebounds last season.
Estes brought in three Division I transfers: 5-9 junior point guard Deric Hill and 6-2 junior shooting guard Juan Ferrales, both from FIU, and 6-6 sophomore forward Yunio Barrueta from East Tennessee State.
Barrueta is one of four Barry players who won state titles at Hialeah Gardens High.
Estes praised Ferrales as a “self-made” player who has worked hard to get to this point, which includes 38.3 percent accuracy on three-pointers last season at FIU.
Hill’s game, which is based on aggressive defensive pressure and open-court play, fits perfectly with Estes’ risk-taking style.
But Estes saved his highest praise for Fivelstad, who competed for Norway in the World University Games this past summer.
“He’s very mature, gives great effort and is a scholar-athlete with a 4.0 [grade-point average],” Estes said. “He epitomizes what we stand for at Barry.”