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Don Ketchum
Former Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Burke faces basketball coaching challenge at Youngker

November 30, 2010 by Don Ketchum, AZPreps365


By Don Ketchum
Why the Y?
Why would Steve Burke leave the coaching comfort of one of the state’s top girls basketball programs (Phoenix Thunderbird) to begin anew with the boys’ team at Youngker High in Buckeye?
“We had some great girls teams there (three state championships, three runners-up) with about 20 wins a year and 20 more wins a year ahead of us for as far as I could see. I needed a new challenge,’’ said Burke, 56.
“I knew Rob Roberson (Youngker athletic director) when he was at (Phoenix) Sunnyslope, and he had asked me to come out and coach the boys. A teaching position opened up (mathematics), and it seemed to be a good fit, so here I am.’’
Burke lives in Tempe and drives about 100 miles round trip to and from Youngker each day.
He had been a boys varsity assistant on a few occasions but never a boys varsity head coach.
“I wanted to give it a try, to get a program going,’’ he said.
There’s a lot of building to be done. The team was just 2-19 last season, and lost its first two games this year, including a 53-47 setback at Glendale Copper Canyon on Tuesday night (Nov. 30). The Rough Riders have their home opener on Wednesday night (Dec. 1) against Apache Junction.
Burke was a part of Phoenix Maryvale’s state champion boys team in 1972 and went on to play at Glendale Community College. He then decided to make a career out of being a teacher and coach.
He has liked what he has seen of his young team thus far.
“They’re a great group of kids. We played some summer ball, and we have showed a lot of improvement since then. I also have a good group of assistants (coaches) who have helped out a lot.’’
Burke can be an imposing figure, even on a boys team. He has a booming voice and is very active, moving up and down the bench, often directing traffic as if he were a policeman in the middle of a busy intersection. Against Copper Canyon, he removed his sport jacket when the game reached crunch time.
“My expectations are high,’’ he said. “I sometimes get a bit autocratic, I bark at them, but it’s only because I see the potential and I also try to be encouraging. They have responded well.’’
The different pace between the girls and the boys games doesn’t concern Burke all that much.
“I coached the girls team like a boys team and I’m coaching the boys team like a boys team,’’ he said. “It all comes down to defense. The more you are able to hold the scores down, the more of a chance you have to win. Our defense has been better, but we’re still not good enough yet.
“Defense helped us (Thunderbird) to the state tournament just about every year, and it can do the same thing here. That’s our goal this year, to make the state tournament.’’
Meanwhile, Burke has left the Thunderbird girls under very capable leadership. Former Burke assistant Barry Ringel also is a basketball lifer, having coached various club teams and the junior-varsity team. He also was the media relations director for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns for several seasons.