Twice weekly Coolidge Principal James Campbell invites the student body over the loudspeaker to take Air Butler transportation (school buses) to the Colt basketball games played at Mary Martha Washington.
Once there, the students and a handful of college recruiters are treated to the Air Butler show. A crowd pleaser and showman in addtion to being a very skilled player, Colt 6-foot-8 junior David Butler landed the nickname "Air Butler," because of an awesome 83-inch wing span and mind boggling above-the-rim play.
Not since 7-foot center Earl Jones, a four-time Parade all-America who graduated from Spingarn in 1980, has the Interhigh had such a promising big man to put on display.
"He has all the ingredients and qualities to be like Earl (Jones)," said Jerell Robinson, who has been a Coolidge assistant coach for eight years under Frank Williams. "He's playing in Earl's mode right now."
It's late in the final quarter, and Coolidge trails No. 1-ranked Spingarn by 12 points. If Coolidge wins, it goes into a first-place tie with the Green Wave.
Butler, taking a breather, comes rushing back into the game. After a missed jump shot by Spingarn's guard all-Met guard Sherman Douglas, Butler leaps above the rim, grabs the ball with one hand and before coming down, throws a long pass to guard Darrin Logan for an easy layup to trim the Green Wave lead to 10 points.
On Spingarn's next trip downcourt, Butler blocks a jump shot by Anthony Duckett. Coolidge forward Tim Anderson grabs the ball and flips it to guard Derrick Davis. Davis decides to call Butler's favorite play-the alley-oop.
Positioned at the top of the key, Butler slips off an Anderson pick and heads toward the basket. Davis tosses the ball high above the rim but Butler leaps high to grab it with both hands. He does a 180-degree spin in midair and throws down a tomahawk dunk that sends the capacity crowd of over 1,000 at Spingarn into delirium.
"That's the Davis-Butler play," said Davis, "and you haven't seen nothing yet."
Coolidge lost the game but Butler's reputation was just beginning to take off.
"He's only a junior and already he's doing things on the court that you don't see from most young players," said Robinson. "He has a lot of energy and is disciplined."
"He's strong, aggressive, quick and has excellent leaping ability," said Leonard Farello, who has been at Coolidge for 17 years, coaching the junior varsity squad and assisting with the varsity. "Every game, every practice, he's improving."
A two-year starter, Butler helped the Colts to a second-place finish in the league last winter. This season, he is averaging 15.6 points (best in the league among centers) and 15 rebounds per game.
His style of play this season also has earned Coolidge a No. 8 ranking in the area and sole possession of second place in the league behind Spingarn, with a 14-3 record, 20-4 overall before this week.
Butler enjoyed perhaps his best game of the season against Ballou. He scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half, had 21 rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots to lead Coolidge to an 82-64 rout.
"But what doesn't show up in the stats column is his blocked shots, the number of turnovers he forces, the adversities he's had to play under," said Robinson. "He's quick, versatile, and gets out on the fast break. He creates things on the floor that stats just don't show."
Indeed, Butler and his teammates have overcome many adversities. Unlike many of the top teams in the league, Coolidge doesn't have the luxury of practicing or playing its home games at Coolidge. The gym at the school seats only 200 and the bleachers and rims are in poor condition. Thus, they are forced to travel a few miles through rush hour traffic every day to M.M. Mary Washington.
"That's our home, M.M. Washington," said Robinson. "We've been fortunate to be able to play all our home games there for the last two seasons. The student body has been supportive and the principal has been more than helpful by supplying buses for transportation.
"It's uncomfortable traveling the distance every day, encountering a lot of traffic and bad weather but the players and I have no quarrels. We're playing excellent ball.
"Next year is going to be a very special one for us because we will be playing our home games here (at Coolidge)," said Robinson. "The student body won't have to catch "Air Butler" to the games then."