The trajectory of Middletown High School athletics changed paths 50 years ago when Joyce Carter moved her seven children from Troy to Middletown.
That decision rewrote the Middie record books and brought more accolades to the town and the school’s lengthy athletic achievements.
Two of the Carter boys, George and John, were accomplished high school athletes, but two others, Butch and Cris, made their marks at the high school, collegiate and professional ranks.
Cris Carter, a high school wide receiver and basketball player, later starred on the Ohio State University football team, then spent 16 seasons in the NFL, most notably with the Minnesota Vikings. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2013.
His older brother, Butch Carter, led the Middies to the Final 4 in the 1976 Ohio High School Athletic Association Boys Basketball State Tournament, earned an athletic scholarship to Indiana University where he helped the Hoosiers win the 1979 NIT, then played six seasons in the NBA.
When asked what impact moving from Troy to Middletown in the ninth grade had on him, Carter said: “That changed my life.”
He said Middletown offered him a tremendous education environment and an opportunity to showcase his hardwood talents on the state’s largest stage.
“It worked out awesome.” he said during a phone call from his office in Toronto.
The 64-year-old will be roasted Feb. 18 during the Dream Center’s 9th annual formal MLK All-Black Attire Gala at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill in Hamilton. The event is the Dream Center’s largest fundraiser that helps provides more than 2,000 meals per month to the community’s underserved, according to organizers.
Those who roast Carter will have mounds of material.
Gregg Darbyshire, who played basketball at MHS and Miami University, said when Carter was hired he brought the “magic” back to the basketball team, the school district and the community. Besides his father, Lynn, Darbyshire called Carter “one of the most influential men” in his life.
Darbyshire, one of those scheduled to roast Carter, said he has plenty of stories to tell.
After Carter was named Ohio’s Player of the Year his senior season, he returned to his alma mater to coach the Middies. He was named Ohio’s Coach of the Year, becoming the only person to capture both awards. Carter credited former Middletown Journal Sports Editor Jerry Nardiello for promoting him for the Coach of the Year honor.
Mark Kerns was an assistant boys basketball coach when Carter was hired. Kerns said he handled the behind-the-scene duties to give Carter more time to coach. That strategy worked.
“Without a doubt, he has the greatest basketball mind I have ever been around,” said Kerns, a retired teacher and coach. “He was very good at what he did.”
Carter later served as an assistant basketball coach for one season at Long Beach State, then two seasons as assistant for the University of Dayton Flyers.
He then was an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks from 1991-96.
Carter spent three seasons with the Toronto Raptors, first as an assistant, then as a head coach. At the time of his hiring, he was only one of four Black head coaches in the NBA, joining Lenny Wilkens (Atlanta Hawks), Alvin Gentry (Detroit Pistons) and Bernie Bickerstaff (Washington Wizards).
In the 1999–2000 season, Carter coached the Raptors to their first winning season and the team’s first playoff appearance. The Raptors were swept in the first round by the New York Knicks and Carter, considered one of the league’s brightest coaches, was fired.
Carter was fired for various reasons, according to different media outlets.
Regardless, he never returned to coaching.
Carter said he left coaching because his four sons needed him as a father. He took the money he made in the NBA to “generate money doing something else,” he said.
He’s founder of Analytics 4 Coaches and serves as the Analytics Coaching Mentor to the NBA’s Assistant Coaching Program (ACP). The goal of the program is designed specifically to help coaches win more games, he said.
Carter’s love of basketball was bounced on courts throughout Middletown. He said his mother worked in the day care at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Community Center so he had keys to the gymnasium. He was a Gym Rat.
There were nights, whether it was 9 p.m. or 11 p.m., Carter and his friends would turn on the lights at Douglass Park and shoot hoops for hours.
Carter understands some people look at him differently because of his skin color. He remembers when two of his high school basketball teammates braided their hair during Black History Week.
“I didn’t need to braid my hair to see I’m Black,” he said.
The first time he truly understood the Civil Rights movement was April 4, 1968 when he saw his mother crying in the kitchen after Martin Luther King was assassinated.
Now, 55 years later, Carter said “we all are in a better place,” though he was critical of former President Trump for creating more racial tension in the country.
HOW TO GO
WHAT: Dream Center’s 9th annual formal MLK All-Black Attire Gala featuring a roast of Middletown High School great Butch Carter
WHEN: 5 p.m. Feb. 18
WHERE: Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, Hamilton Ballroom, 601 N. B Street, Hamilton
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