Veteran Pacers Coach Dan Burke discusses his career
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Dan Burke has been involved in the NBA for 22 seasons and has been a Pacers assistant coach for 14 of those years. He's been praised by Larry Bird as being a hard-worker and brings his dedication to the team and head coach Frank Vogel. Burke discusses his coaching philosophy and what originally brought him to Indiana.
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Brooke Olzendam: Coach, It’s safe to say you’ve spent a long time here in Indianapolis. Take me back, how did you get here?
Dan Burke: Back when Larry Bird first came here. I was in Portland with Dick Carter and Rick Carlisle; they were looking to join Larry. We just wanted to come as a group and hit the ground running with Larry. We were all familiar, well the three of us anyway. Just show Larry how we were going to do things and just make sure was as few hiccups as possible. It worked out all for the best.
Brooke: And the rest is history. What’s it like working with Larry Bird?
Dan: Demanding, but in a good way. Because the simple rule, it’s mostly unstated, is just do your job. Don’t be looking for your next job. Don’t be looking at someone else if they’re not doing their job. Just do your job and if everyone approaches it that way, we’re going to go places and we’ll be successful. It’s a good rule to live by.
Brooke: How would you describe your coaching style? Your coaching philosophy?
Dan: Probably throwback or old-fashioned, I guess. It’s kind of simple. I like the simplicity Larry brought. Just play hard, work hard, and be together. I like a team that just plays hard and is aggressive, mentally tough, accountable to themselves, accountable to each other. I don’t like a bunch of celebrating. I’m not a big rah-rah guy. I like that in the locker room or after the game. I don’t like trash-talking at all.
Brooke: What’s the dichotomy like between you and Frank Vogel, who you said is brilliant? That’s a strong word. How do you guys work together as coaches?
Dan: I said Frank was brilliant?
Brooke: I did. I did and you did.
Dan: We both got into the similar as far as his first job in the NBA was doing video and that’s how I got started. The difference was he started when it was computer editing. I was two VCRs. Hunt and peck method. But, learning the game that way, getting involved that way. We come up the same background in that way. I think we’re family first. You’ve been in the dungeon, and in the bunker just doing your job. You never look ahead of where the job is going to lead you. You just do your job. It’s paid off. He’s become head coach. I’m looking forward to working with him. I enjoyed the last three months of the last season. Looking forward to getting a whole season under our belt here.
Brooke: I’m going to take you back a little ways to Portland State, Pacific Northwest. We have a little tie. What was your time like there?
Dan: By the time I got to Portland State, they had kicked the men’s basketball program out of the school. By the time I got there, there was only women’s basketball, good wrestling program, good football program. It was good to stay around home for me. I got on with the Trail Blazers part-time. As you already said, the rest is history.
Brooke: The rest is history.
Dan: I’ve been tricking them ever since.
Brooke: You seem like you are just basketball all the time. When you’re not thinking about hoops, what are you doing on the side?
Dan: Fishing, yard work, yard work is good therapy. I like road trips with my family, long road trips. Two summers ago, up through Maine, through Massachusetts. Last summer over to Philly, up through Pittsburgh. Long drives are good for the soul. A lot of reading. I like watching sports, I like hearing what other coaches have to say. There’s so much that coaches talk about that spans any sport: How to motivate players. What do you say to them during times of trouble or adversity? Watching Coach Washington for the Texas Rangers battle through their demons. You can learn a lot all of the time.
Brooke: If you’re reading all of these books on coaches, is there one that you would like to emulate in any sport?
Dan: I’ve worked with so many coaches. In fact, four or five here. You find that everyone has a lot to offer. There’s a lot to learn from each person. There’s positives to everybody I’ve coached with. The niche is to find your style, to be yourself. You’re not going to fool them by trying to be someone else. Just stick to your principles and be consistent.