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He led the Maroons to three straight Group AA final four appearances in the mid-1980s.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Pat Burns’ first tour of duty as the boys basketball coach at George Wythe High School began in 1975.
Thirty-eight years later, Burns is back.
Burns, who led Wythe to three consecutive VHSL Group AA final four appearances from 1984-86 and later was the head coach at Pulaski County for 11 seasons, has been hired as the Maroons head coach for a second time.
The Hogoheegee District school also filled its girls basketball head coaching vacancy with Doug Campbell, a Norton native who has been the boys head coach at Castlewood High in Russell County.
Burns retired from public education in 2007 after serving for three years as the athletic director at Eastern Montgomery.
He moved back to Wytheville three years ago.
Since the Wythe job came open in late April after head coach Joey Russell resigned, Burns said he has been besieged by requests from the community to return to the job.
“To be perfectly honest, once Coach Russell resigned, people would come up to me at Walmart, church, the grocery store and ask me if I would be interested in coming back,” Burns said.
“The people of Wytheville were very good to me when I was here. I didn’t plan to come back here to coach. I planned to come back here to live.”
George Wythe reached the 1985 Group AA championship game under Burns, losing 71-53 to Martinsville. The Maroons reached the state semifinals in 1984 and 1986.
Burns posted a 145-102 record in 11 seasons at Wythe. His record at Pulaski County, where he succeeded Allen Wiley as the Cougars’ head coach, was 119-120.
George Wythe’s coaching staff will include holdover assistant Thad Umberger, and Scott Hoagland, a former men’s head coach at Virginia Intermont College and an ex-coach of Oak Hill Academy’s “Red” team.
Burns said he has not placed a limit on how many years he might coach. Wythe was 14-12 last winter, losing to Graham in the first round of the Region C Division 2 tournament.
“I don’t think I’ll give it up after two years,” he said. “They lost five really good seniors. It might take a year to teach some of them how to play.”
He said he will implement his offensive and defensive systems based on his personnel.
“We’re looking to see what we’ve got first,” Burns said. “I know what I’d like to do. I’ve always been a [North] Carolina fast-break kind of guy.”
Burns, who still holds the single-game men’s scoring record at Emory & Henry College of 53 points, graduated from Dublin High in 1966. His high school coach was Sonny Smith, who later became the head coach at East Tennessee State, Auburn and VCU.
“I feel like I played for one of the greatest offensive minds who ever lived,” Burns said.
Burns said he will run a youth basketball camp this summer featuring several of his former players at Wythe and Pulaski such as Maurice Johnson and Ron Shelburne.
Burns’ first team at George Wythe included a guard named Rick Cormany, who has been the head coach at Radford High for the past 20 years.
George Wythe and Radford both will be classified Group 1A next year in the VHSL’s new six-classification system.
Campbell, 34, who played one season of college basketball at UVa-Wise, was Castlewood’s coach for the past three seasons. He led the program to the Group A Division 1 quarterfinals each of the past two years and was an assistant on Castlewood’s 2009 state semifinalists.
Campbell said he has long had his eye on working at George Wythe.
“I always have goals to find opportunities that are golden, not just for sports but for community and family,” Campbell said.
He also was a football and basketball assistant at J.I. Burton High in Norton, and he was the softball coach at Castlewood.
Campbell replaces Bradley Sutphin in the Wythe job, his first in girls basketball. The Maroons finished 7-15 last winter.
“Basketball is basketball,” Campbell said. “The object of the game doesn’t change whether it’s boys or girls. I’m not going to change my philosophy or my approach.
“I’ll try to bring a different attitude, a different style. I’m a defense-first coach. It might not look like it from some our scores.”
Campbell said he should benefit from Burns’ presence.
“I’ve talked to Coach Burns,” Campbell said. “He’s one of those old-school guys, they call him. I’d love to get in his hip pocket from time to time and learn some things.”
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