In the history of Mecklenburg County high school basketball, two boys’ teams have finished the season undefeated and holding an N.C. High School Athletic Association state 4A championship: West Charlotte in 1986 and Olympic in 2013.
Coach Myron Lowery’s Butler Bulldogs are eight quarters of basketball from making it a threesome. And Lowery is probably the most unlikeliest coach to be in such a position.
“I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about that right now,” Lowery said Wednesday after practice. “There are four really good teams left and we’ve still got a lot of work to do, a lot of film to watch and a lot of scouting reports to do. I can’t think about (being undefeated). To me, that’s too far away.”
Four years ago, Lowery was at Providence High, mired in a 1-24 season. The Panthers were going through a run of losing seasons, at one point ranked last in North Carolina in the MaxPreps rankings during Lowery’s final year there.
Lowery resigned after that 2012-13 season and started working as an assistant at Olympic High in the fall of 2013. But before that, he spent some time around Olympic’s unbeaten state champion, then coached by good friend Ty Baumgardner.
Lowery was at Olympic one season and took over Butler before the 2014-15 season. His first team was 23-4 and made the third round of the playoffs. His second Bulldogs team was 24-6 last year and made the Elite 8.
Now he’s in a regional final.
“I hope it’s fate,” Lowery said. “But it’s rare for a public school coach that’s not doing anything, not cheating basically, and who doesn’t have one of those rare jobs where the talent keeps coming, to always be successful. Maybe not go to the extreme I did -- from 1-24 to 30-0 -- I don’t know if anyone has done that.
“But I knew I was doing good things even when we weren’t winning, and I knew if I ever got the talent, I could make it work. And finally the stars aligned and I’ve got some great kids who are really talented and really want to play together and play unselfishly.”
Unlike some of the past playoff powers from Mecklenburg County, Butler doesn’t have elite talent, but the Bulldogs have balance.
Senior Zane Rankin, signed to Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., is a 6-foot-4 senior averaging 16 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Junior guard DJ Little averages 13.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals. Junior center Gerrale Gates averages 12 points and 9.2 rebounds. And three other Bulldogs -- senior Omega Stitt, senior Jah’Lil Carter and senior Tarique Stowe -- all average more than seven points.
“This is a great team to coach,” Lowery said. “Every night, there’s different kids stepping up, and that’s a true team, when someone is not playing well and someone else is stepping up.”
Lowery said he thought early that this team had a chance to be special.
“We were beating everybody this summer and I looked at our schedule and said, ‘There’s not one team on there we can’t beat, every single time,’ ” Lowery said. “But thinking it and doing it are two different things, especially when you get those conference games on a Tuesday night on the road and those games are hard.
“The teams know you. You play them a lot. It’s easy to let down, but because we’ve had so much production from everybody, maybe that’s a reason we haven’t had a letdown. If one kid wasn’t on that night, someone else was.”
Lowery said he wants to coach another 10 or 15 years, and that the lean years at Providence have made him a better coach. He’s able to adapt to different teams and situations and talent levels better. He said he doesn’t live and die with the games as much anymore, but does have an extra appreciation for a run like this one.
“If you win all the time, do you really understand how to lose?” Lowery said. “It’s made me a better coach, by the losing, to be honest.
“And that makes what is happening right now 10 times more rewarding and pleasurable, the fact that I went through all that losing. I’m enjoying this more.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr