Busken’s hiring brings surprise, questions - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Busken’s hiring brings surprise, questions

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Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 10:35 am | Updated: 3:55 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Basha wide receiver Dejon Walker said some of his teammates were surprised when Bernie Busken was recommended as the football team’s new coach.

Basha wide receiver Dejon Walker said some of his teammates were surprised when Bernie Busken was recommended as the football team’s new coach.

Busken’s results aren’t the problem — he went 82-9 in his stint at Mountain View, including a 40-game winning streak and three state titles — but the way he got them.

Busken, who would replace Tim McBurney, was forced out at Mountain View in 2002 after allegations of physical and verbal mistreatment of players.

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The most prominent allegation of abuse was the practice of giving “pinkbellies” in which a player would lie on the ground as teammates slapped him in the stomach with an open hand in full force.

Walker hasn’t come to any conclusions yet, and is anxious to meet Busken on Wednesday, when he is scheduled to talk to the team for the first time. His hiring could be approved at a Chandler Unified School District board meeting tonight.

Walker knows some of his teammates are wary.

“A lot were kind of surprised Mr. (Principal Ken) James would hire someone like this knowing the background,” Walker said. “Some of the players are like, ‘Why?’ There’s been a little talk of it. I guess we have to see when he comes in how he’s going to take over this program.”

Matt Pryor, a Mountain View assistant under Busken from 2000-2002, doesn’t see the trend reversing.

He said it was Busken’s rough personality combined with an explosive temper that led to the incidents.

“Much like an abusive parent, you tip-toed around him and hoped he’d be in a good mood,” Pryor said. “I saw the fear in the eyes of the Mountain View kids on a regular basis.”

James knows there will be backlash.

“We know it’s going to draw publicity but we wouldn’t make the hire if we didn’t do our background checks for everything,” James said. “I didn’t know or meet him but he came into the interview and he wasn’t what I expected. I was expecting a brash, arrogant, vision of the man. This was as humble, polite an individual as you could want.”

The Mountain View fiasco happened eight years ago, and Busken admits he was in the wrong. He said he’s a changed man.

“At the end of the 2001 season, I didn’t like me,” Busken said. “I came back in January (of 2002), and I met with next year’s team. I told them I had said and done some things that weren’t acceptable. ‘Talk is cheap, just watch.’

“We had a great spring. In May, (the investigation and forced resignation) happened. It was frustrating. I was wrong. I should have realized that earlier.”

Busken credits his wife and religion in helping him to change.

“I’m the toughest on me,” he said. “I evaluate players all the time, and coaches. I evaluate me more than anything. I’m trying to improve every day and be a good Christian man.”

Pryor cites allegations of abuse against Busken during stops in Brazoswood, Texas and at Southern Utah in addition to Mountain View as reasons why Basha shouldn’t expect anything different.

“I understand the idea of contrition and forgiveness, I really do,” Pryor said. “I just don’t think it’s appropriate to put him in charge of 15-, 16-year-old kids. If it was an isolated incident, a one-time thing, I could see him (being able to) change.

“People will say, ‘What does Matt Pryor know? He hasn’t been around Busken in eight years.’ And that’s true. However, I can’t see that man, in his 50s, all of a sudden finding Jesus.”

Walker said he reviewed the incidents, and that “stuff happens and sometimes the media puts it out there and it can get perceived wrong.”

Busken said the entire truth was not presented, and that some reports were inaccurate.

“There’s a lot of things, but that’s old news,” Busken said. “Maybe a quarter of the story got told. But that’s all I care to say about it. It’s old news.”

Instead, Busken wants the chance to show he has changed through his actions.

He’s hoping for a blank slate with his new players, parents and school.

“I don’t think it’s fair to judge anybody by what you’ve heard,” Busken said. “What if it’s wrong? What if it’s right? The only thing I ask is come and watch.”

Brian Vorpahl, the Basha booster club president and father of one of the players, is planning to do just that.

“There are a lot of rumors out there, which remain to be seen,” Vorpahl said. “Times change and I think he’s a good enough individual to change with the times.”

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