By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ex-CHS coach, district trustee Butler dies
When Pierce Butler decided to retire as head coach of Ceres High School's varsity girls basketball team following the 1992-93 season, Shawna Nunes was hand-picked to be his successor.

Butler, 81, passed away at his home on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

Nunes spoke glowingly about her former coach and mentor prior to tip-off of the Bulldogs' home game with Lathrop last week.

"He's an icon," Shawna said.

Butler was one of two coaches inducted into the inaugural class of the Ceres High Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. He attended the event and spoke.

"I enjoyed working with the kids and watching them succeed," Pierce said leading up to the special ceremony.

Butler coached multiple sports at Ceres High, including more than a combined 20-plus seasons with the Bulldogs' boys and girls basketball teams.

"He always ran a very disciplined program, but he was able to be close to his players," said Art McRae, former Ceres High baseball coach and fellow Bulldog Hall of Fame member. "He showed respect and got it in return. I always thought he was excellent in modifying his coaching style to the personnel he had."

Pierce was the varsity boys coach from 1958-1967. He was promoted to the position after directing the B-team for two seasons (1956-58). The Bulldogs captured a league title and amassed an impressive 16-4 record in 1961-62.

Bill Atwell, a 1960 Ceres High graduate, suited up for Butler as a freshman and sophomore.

"He was a good man," Atwell said while watching the Bulldogs play on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at Ceres High School's Phil de la Porte Gymnasium. "He knew basketball. He was real strict."

Pierce's second stint as a Ceres High coach was with the varsity girls team (1980-1993). The Bulldogs won six league titles and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs six times.

Pierce enjoyed coaching Denise, the youngest of his six children, for two seasons (1980-82).

"At that time, nobody wanted to coach girls athletics," Nunes said. "It was a different game then. There wasn't a lot of recognition."

Butler stepped down after 13 seasons.

Pierce won his final home game on Feb. 23, 1993, leading Ceres High to a 79-14 blowout of Bear Creek. The win helped the Bulldogs (15-13 overall, 7-7 league) clinch their first playoff berth in four years.

Nunes replaced Butler after a two-year stint at the freshman level. Shawna played for Pierce during her senior year (1980-81). She assisted him for two seasons (1987-89).

"There was quite a bit of pressure," Nunes said. "He had a ton of success. I had no varsity experience as a head coach. A number of times I called Pierce to help diagram plays. Until about three years ago, I used his out-of-bounds play. We called it Butler."

Loved by many, Pierce left a lasting legacy.

He was admired for doing things the right way.

Butler donated his yearly coaching stipend during the second half of his career.

"He put all his money into an account for scholarships," Nunes said.

Pierce moved from Minnesota to California in 1956. He lived in Ceres for more than five decades. He served as a Ceres School Board member from 1973-1997. He also taught typing and bookkeeping, and physical education at Ceres High (1956-1967).

"I used to go to lunch with him when I first got here," said McRae, who began his teaching and coaching career at CHS in 1959. "A lot of times, we went to his house. He was one of those guys who made you feel welcomed. He was a very good friend."