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The BCC women’s basketball team may attract as much attention this year not only for who is shooting jump shots but also for who is sitting courtside with the team.
Joining head coach Ashlyn Burke an assistant Taylor Goodrich as a volunteer assistant is Burke’s Hall of Fame dad, Bob.
“I tell the girls this every day,” Ashlyn Burke said. “‘You don’t understand how fortunate you are. For me, just having my dad here is great. There are not a lot of junior college girls being coached by a Hall of Famer, an NBA coach, a man who has been to the national tournament I don’t know how many times, one of the third-winningest basketball coaches in North Carolina at one point.’”
Bob Burke certainly loves to coach, shuttling between the BCC campus and Charleston, S.C., where son Rob is a coach at The Citadel. Bob Burke has all kinds of ideas about how to help the BCC team.
“He called me,” said Ashlyn Burke, who also the BCC athletics director and taking three classes as she pursues a master’s degree. “He said, ‘Man, I couldn’t even sleep last night. My mind was racing with what we can do with this team.’ And I said, ‘Dad, I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t have a problem sleeping, because I was beat.’”
That Ashlyn Burke decided to pursue a coaching job surprised Bob Burke. Even though she as a youngster attended many of his camps—sometimes as a stand-in for drills he was demonstrating—Bob Burke thought his daughter’s future would be something other than as a coach.
“I thought she would be involved in public relations,” he said.
And he tried to dissuade her when she applied for the BCC coaching job two years ago.
“I tried to convince her not take this coaching job because I knew the many ramifications coaching involved, especially putting a program together. Coaching is really, really demanding, tough business—and that’s if you do it right.
“My son is a coach. We knew the ups and downs. It isn’t peaches and cream, like some people think. She (learned) that last year with only six girls.
“The fact that there was no tradition here, just getting this thing started was really going to be demanding. But she took on the challenge.”
Bob Burke helped some last year, but he told his daughter he was unwilling to assist her full time this year unless she recruited “reliable, dependable, accountable girls that had academic goals,” he said.
“I told her, ‘If you bring a team in here that I can work with, we’ll put them together and get this thing going.”
Ashlyn Burke did that, recruiting some South Carolina All-State players, players from teams with winning traditions and other top-level players, one of whom has been recruited by UNC Wilmington. With the talent in place, Bob Burke was ready to spend more time coaching this season.
“Not necessarily to do it my way but the best way,” he said.
And just as the team has rules it has to obey, the father and daughter have been developed an understanding about their basketball relationship.
“I don’t want her to call me ‘Dad’ during the game,” Bob Burke said. “I told her I coach, and you coach, and that’s what we are for those 40 minutes. We’ll disagree. You may tell me to keep quiet, or you may want my input, and I understand that. What she says is final.
“But at the same time I think she is smart enough to realize that I see the game a lot different than she does just based on my experience.”
As an example, Bob Burke said, he pointed out some things to her on a video of a recent scrimmage.
“As she gets better and better as a coach, she’ll start to recognize those things,” he said.
Bob Burke learned quickly there will be no co-coach titles on this team.
“Her mother (Jane) is a former superintendent and a go-getter,” Bob Burke said. “So she has a lot of her mom’s determination. I found out my daughter is pretty feisty. That’s a trait of mine and of her brother’s. She has the (plan) that this is how it’s going to get done. She had been able to relay that message to the girls, which I’m really proud of.”
BCC won four games last year, and Bob Burke said his daughter remained as positive as could be expected.
“I don’t know if she ever got down,” he said. “I think she was reaching out a little bit for what do you do with six players? ‘These girls are sick and they’re tired and they’re hurt—and how do you come back from a 40-point loss?’”
“You got to stay energetic and you got to stay enthused, because if you’re not, they won’t be. I think sometimes if you see how spirited she was all the time, she was able to maintain that.
“I give her credit for keeping the girls eligible academically, keeping five showing up every game and not using crutches—not using illness, sickness, academics, travel—because if we do, we’re sending the wrong message about what we’re trying to build here.”
Ashlyn Burke admits that sometimes father knows best.
“He takes orders from me, and there are some days when he tries to step in,” she said. “When it comes down to it, what he says, I’m like, ‘OK, you’re right.’ I kind of let him take over in practice,” she said and then reaches for a notepad. “This is my basketball notepad. I have nothing but notes (from practice). I listen to what he says, and I take notes and I take notes. While he’s teaching, I’m putting my (lineup together). ‘OK, we can use her here, and I see how she’s running this.’”
The relationship energizes her and the team.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “What’s really fun about it is that we come out of practice and we’re pumped up. We’re ready to play.”
And Bob Burke is ready again to coach. He has nothing to prove. He was inducted into the Chowan Hall of Fame in 2000. His record was 319-76 in 13 years when Chowan was a junior college. He coached nine more years at Chowan when it was a four-year college, helping it make the transition from Division III to Division II. He finished with 454 victories, he said.
“We played for four national titles,” he said about his career at Chowan. “We got to the Final Four in 1984.”
At Chowan, he coached more than 70 future Division I players.
“I enjoyed seeing the kids go on,” he said.
He also coached at Hawaii and with the NBA Portland Trailblazers.
“I’ve coached at every level you could possibly coach at—high school, junior college, Division III, II, I and the NBA,” he said. “I got to coach my son, then I got to coach with my son. Now I get to coach with my daughter. Let’s just hope my wife doesn’t become a coach.”