The world gets smaller as I get older

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I knew the women’s basketball coach at Brunswick Community College before she was born — when she was about the size of a basketball.

Ashlyn Burke, in her second year as BCC’s women’s basketball coach, is the daughter of Bob and Jane Burke. Her father is a basketball coach extraordinaire. Her mother is an educator extraordinaire.

I first met Bob Burke when he was men’s basketball coach at Greensboro College in the early to mid-1970s. I ran into him again in the early 1980s, when he was beginning his long coaching career at Chowan College, then a two-year college, but it’s now known as Chowan University, a four-year school.

Burke guided the then-Chowan Braves to numerous National Junior College Athletic Association Region X titles and three appearances in the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. He took the 1983-1984 team to the NJCAA Final Four in 1984.

The star of that team was Nate McMillan, who later played at N.C. State and with the Seattle Supersonics. Today, McMillan coaches the Portland Trailblazers.

Burke later served as a coach at the University of Hawaii and with the Trailblazers.

Though he somewhat retired after a severe heart attack, Burke remains in demand as an evaluator of basketball players.

In her first year as coach of the women’s team at BCC, Ashlyn Burke let her father assist her. Considering his resumé, it was a smart move. The younger Burke acknowledges having some of her father’s famous temper, but she also points out she has some of her mother’s qualities — patience and understanding.

If Ashlyn Burke has one-tenth of her father’s coaching savvy and one-tenth of her mother’s patience and understanding, she’ll do well as a basketball coach.

And if her father’s basketball savvy is not enough, she can ask older brother Rob for help. Rob Burke played basketball for his father at Chowan, before beginning a coaching career. Rob Burke is an assistant coach at The Citadel, after spending several successful years as the head coach at Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College.

When I came across an article about Ashlyn Burke the other day, I emailed her, telling her that I knew her parents and brother before she was born. In a return email, she told me I just had to call her father and reminisce. She also provided me with her phone number — so I could tell her stories about her family.

I do have some interesting stories to share with her. That will happen over the next several months.

I know Papa Burke is proud of his son. He told me that the last time I saw him, which was at a basketball game between Chowan and ECU a few years ago. And Papa Burke is just as proud of his daughter — which was evident in his voice during our recent conversation.

In my golden years, I still have the chance to see a Burke coaching the finer points of basketball — even if some of my first memories of that coach are of her wailing at the top of her lungs.

Almost 30 years later, like father, like daughter.

Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. He had the privilege of covering some of the Chowan College teams, including the 1983-1984 team, when he worked at the News-Herald in Ahoskie. Even then, he was grateful for those post-game meals (sandwiches mostly) provided to players, coaches, team managers and the press. Bread, cold cuts and cheese never tasted so good.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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