Dan Burkman was eager to return to the sidelines and Southmont was searching for a last minute coach to guide the Mounties’ girls basketball program.
The seemingly perfect fit was finalized in early October, just days before the girls’ basketball season began on Oct. 19.
Burkman brings eight years of varsity coaching experienced to Southmont — coaching eight seasons at Indian Creek, where he guided the Indians girls’ program to a 129-58 record and three sectional titles from 2010-17.
“He had been out a couple of years and he was looking to get back in,” Southmont athletic director Aaron Charles said. “I think it’s kind of a perfect timing kind of deal for us to get somebody as qualified as he is and with the success he’s had and it’s what we are wanting.”
Burkman replaces Dustin Oakley, who posted a 41-50 record in four seasons. The Mounties had just two winning seasons and failed to win a sectional game under Oakley.
Last winter Burkman found himself bored and missing the game, and once he came to Southmont this fall to interview for the job, the decision was an easy one.
“I went out to interview with Aaron (Charles) and Mr. Burgess (Southmont principal) and they took me on a tour of the school and facilities and honestly once I saw the facilities, they are unbelievable and I just felt like I could work with them, good people and good administrators and I researched the team so I knew I had a little bit of talent coming back,” Burkman said. “It was a no-brainer for me once I interviewed.”
Burkman takes over a Southmont team that went 13-10 last season and returns its top four scorers in seniors Addison Charles, Natalie Manion, and Sidney Veatch, and junior Belle Miller. The new coach is confident the Mounties can quickly return to competing for sectional championships, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 2014.
“I believe 100% that we can win the sectional,” he said. “I’ve researched it and looked at the other teams and I believe we can do it, but they’re going to have to stay positive even through some pretty rough periods here at the beginning.”
Burkman, who coached Indian Creek to six winning seasons, says the key to success is to managing the season in order to give yourself the best chance once the tournament rolls around.
“What I’ve found to be successful is to really manage the season from the beginning from a perspective of the wear and tear on the kids body,” he said. “how tired they get, how long the season is and keep them motivated and an eye on the prize at the end because it’s so easy for the end of January to roll around and the kids to start losing interest.”
Schematically Burkman says he favors a 1-3-1 half-court trap defensively, but will show multiple defenses in each game. With the basketball, Mountie fans can expect to see a lot of sets involving backdoor plays and cuts, but Burkman says early in the season they will stick to a 5-out offense, which is what the Mounties have ran in the past.
Like many programs around the state, the Mounties are playing catch-up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the end of the day Burkman will look for his players to use their athleticism and skillset to succeed.
“I want the girls to just make basketball plays and make good decisions,” he said.
Charles said Southmont felt like Burkman’s demeanor would mesh well with the current group of players and that was confirmed through the first week and a half of practice.
“We really thought his demeanor would be really good for this group and for our program and watching this week at some practices, I could see that,” Charles said. “He’s very even-keeled and that part fits in really well. The girls are responding very well and working really hard.”
Burkman is Southmont’s fourth coach since the 2012-13 season, and is committed to building something special like he did at Indian Creek.
“I’m kind of a feeder program coach,” he said. “I believe in it and I think that will be one of my next priorities once I get my feet under me.”
And it was one of the top reasons Charles was to eager to bring Burkman on board.
“He’s been successful at that 3A level, he’s coached some good kids and he knows what it takes to get teams prepared,” he said. “He also brings his involvement down from the youth all the way up. He’s uber involved and completely hands on. I love that part of it and I think it’s going to help continue to build that program up.”
Southmont opens the 2020-21 season at home against Tri-West next Thursday.