695HOOPS WHERE IT'S ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS
Coach Chris Burley is one of the most respected men in the girls basketball community. For years he helped build successful programs at Towson Catholic and Western as well as one of the top tournaments in the country. Coach Burley is now on the staff at St.Frances and he took some time to answer a few questions for us.
695: Tell me about your coaching backrgound...
Coach: I started Coaching in 2001 at Friends School with Coach T (Tiffany Silver). I would come to her games because she wanted me to support her and girl’s basketball. I said ok. I saw that she was coaching by herself, worrying about substitution, calling plays, etc.., so I said hey you need an assistant coach and she said agreed. I was 23 at that time. I knew how to play but I had to learn how to coach. After one season at Friends, we moved on to Towson Catholic. At the time they had won 5 games in 5 seasons. We knew we had a diamond in the rough though. There I really learned how to coach. Coach Mike Daniels, Tony Biggers, and Jerrod Rucker really showed me the ropes on how to be a good assistant and how to evaluate players to bring in for Coach. I was at T.C. for three years.
695: Where did you grow up?
Coach: I had the best of both worlds. My parents were very hardworking blue-collar individuals. I was raised in Westport South Baltimore but grew up in North East Baltimore.
695: Did you play sports growing up?
Coach: Yes, I played football and basketball since age five or six. I played basketball with St. Mary’s Govans, Baltimore Polytechnic football and basketball, and Cardinal Gibbons football and basketball.
695: Talk about your experience at Western.
Coach: It was awesome. Actually when Coach got hired at Western I told her no at first. Western is the Dunbar of girl’s basketball in Baltimore. You first come into the gym and just see banners. You go into the athletic office and see trophies and plaques everywhere. If they had a trophy case, it would be 50 yards or more. Coach said trust me we will be successful and I said ok let’s do this. Six years later we accomplished 5 Baltimore City Titles, 5 Final Fours and 3 State Finals. As Mr. Lang (God rest his soul) would always say, "let people talk, you have to get there to even compete." I sure do miss him and he was so right about a lot things.
At the end of the day, I learned its basketball. I would not trade my experience there for anything. Those young ladies will forever be my daughters and I see them all the time. Some are getting married, having kids, and now coaching. Most Importantly 100% went to college and 80% graduated from college. The 20% Coach and I still call them to make sure they go back to college.
695: What's the deal with the Breezy Bishop tournament? Why the change to the Beast of the East?
Coach: The previous Showcase’s name was in reverence to a legend that a lot of young ladies had no clue even existed. So we named it for someone living so she would know that we love, respect and honor her. When we where at Western we wanted to bring the competition to Baltimore. At that time, Baltimore was an after thought and coaches would come once in while to see basketball but not really look for our kids. Now colleges see we have talent for all levels and they cannot deny that the Baltimore Metro area has tons of talent they need .
We changed the name because now this Showcase has national notoriety. Since the name change, we have gotten teams from Colorado, Florida, New York and Virginia. So our marketing plan worked. We will never forget our roots, but we realize the brand had to expand with the demand.
695: What challenges do you face in putting together a tournament of that quality?
National sponsorship. We always say if this were a boys showcase, the brands would be running to get their name on it. They would be calling everyday. But I learned a long time ago that in girls basketball we grind. So we understand we have to crawl before we walk. It will come very soon. But until then we do not complain. Our goal for every young lady is to find a college or university that fits their needs and hopefully they will not have to pay for school.
695: What are you most looking forward to about joining St. Frances?
Coach: Working with the staff and the young ladies. I have always admired Coach Shelton and his staff. We were less then 10 miles away and would always come to each others games and support whatever the other had. When I left Western, the first coach to call me was him. He said I want you on my staff. I told him I would love to but I wanted to find a head coaching position. He said, I will bug you until you say no. True story. One day I sat in my basement and said, "God give me some direction. Tell me where you want me to be. I will not fight it.” It was less then 2 minutes later Coach Shelton called. I said St. Frances is my home. So I am a Panther and I love it.
695: What do you do to stay sharp and improve as a coach?
Coach: I go to at least 2-3 coaching clinics before the season. During the season I go to college games and sit behind the bench. And after the season I go to AAU games and to colleges to speak with my coaching colleagues. I sit behind the bench because I want to know what coaches do in certain situation. I like to study their mood, if they are up 30 or down 30. If the game is close or blowout. I see what college assistants do. I see how they assist the head coach but at the same time offer their opinion with small “fill-ins” where the head coach may have missed something. I also have learned from the coaches we played against. They have tons of knowledge.
695: How would you describe your coaching style?
Coach: In practice I would say I am Bruce Pearl, very energetic, very hard, but very detailed. I learned in playing sports that footwork and mechanics are very important. So I work the kids to death on fundamentals. During the game, I try to manage more. I learned from Coach T along time ago that you make adjustments during the game, you teach in practice. I look at basketball like school. We practice for the test 3-5 days a week. Then during that game you apply what you are taught. Sometimes it works sometimes it does not. I actually watch the NBA network and saw a Celtics practice. I was amazed that even at the professional level, Doc Rivers ran practices similar to what Coach was doing. And he said the same thing I just said. Games are made for adjustment. teaching is made for practice.
695: What do you think of the overall direction of girls basketball in this area?
Coach: I love it. Girls basketball is very intense. The fans, the parents and the administrators really get into it. I mean they really invest in their child. I know the culture is changing with parents getting more involved but I think that is just the culture. As coaches we have to adapt to that change. I see girls like Tyshell King, who I have seen since she was in 7th grade and now she is an 11th grader and is the face of Lady Panther basketball team. I love the coaches and their dedication. This is a 12-month a year job and every coach has to love what they do to be successful.
695: What's the last good concert you went to?
Coach: Robin Thicke/Alicia Keys. Not really a big concert fan. I like live sports. I saw the Pro-Am games and that was live. I love to see people packed in a gym and just do the purists thing they know how to do. No money, no flashy cars, no announcers. Just BBall. But I would love to see Jay-Z , Nas, and Mary J live.
695: What do you do besides coach?
Coach: I work for the Army, I use to be a D.J. believe it or not. I started when I was 10 and stopped about 5-6 years ago. And my family. My wife and two sons are my strength and they support me being a mentor and coach.
695: Thanks for your time.
Coach: Thank you for being an advocate for girls basketball. We need more people like you in this area. Stay blessed and see you all at the Beast of the East Showcase. It’s always the 2nd weekend in December.
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