John Burns has been named Basha’s boys basketball coach, principal Ken James said.
Nine candidates were interviewed last week, and Burns, Mesquite’s coach the past two seasons, beat out former Chaparral coach Commander King and Estrella Foothills coach Ty Amundsen for the job, according to sources.
Burns was 27-26 in his two seasons with the Wildcats, finishing 14-12 this year. Mesquite missed the Division I postseason but did hand state champion Corona del Sol its only loss of the season.
Burns previously coached at Highland, where he led the Hawks to two state semifinal appearances from 2001-2004. James was the school’s principal at that time, and that familiarity paid dividends for Burns. When the duo was at Highland, former Phoenix Suns coach Danny Ainge had a son, Tanner, on the team, and went to watch a practice. Afterward, he went to James’ office and complimented Burns’ schemes.
“After that, I figured we had a good one,” James said.
James was not involved in the interviews, but he said all five search committee members, which included athletic director Brent Rincon and incoming-Chandler district AD Marcus Williams, had Burns as their No. 1 candidate, which made the decision an easy one. In between Mesquite and Highland, Burns coached at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College and Hickman (Mo.) High.
This is the first domino in what will be an interesting offseason for Basha.
The Bears were ranked as high as No. 2 in Division I last season and didn’t have a senior on the roster. However, the team lost three in a row to end the year and were upset in the second round of the Division I state tournament by Perry after blowing a 16-point fourth quarter lead.
After coach Brad Pinter was forced to resign on March 8, Brian Hopkins, the father to star point guard Jaron Hopkins and the uncle to star forward Torren Jones, said the players would be considering their transfer options.
If Jones and Hopkins return, the Bears will be one of the preseason favorites to win the Division I state championship next year. If they leave, Basha will still have Maurice Kirby and Nathan Markovich but won’t be rated as high.
On Tuesday, Jaron Hopkins said he was "indecisive" about what will happen before next season.
“Right now we have no plans,” Hopkins said.
James said he had never been involved in such a unique hiring situation. He didn’t get input from the parents or players and said the choice of Burns was made for the long haul.
“We hired a coach for the long-term, not just one year,” he said.
However, when he talked to the Bears at a team banquet earlier this month, he encouraged the players to stay and believes the team can win a state title with Burns at the helm.
“I told them, whoever we hire, they’re going to have a new coach either way (whether they stay or leave),” James said. “Let’s give him a chance. Who knows? You might like him.”
Hopkins said the plan is for the players to meet with Burns in an open gym session on Wednesday. The hiring process dragged on for several days because Burns and a human resources representative for Chandler had trouble connecting to discuss salary, James said.
It made for a tense wait for the players.
“It was quite nervewracking with the all delays,” Hopkins said.