His voice is calm and quiet, that of a man comfortable with where he is at in his life.
Bernie Busken is comfortable, finally. He’s back home, coaching high school football in the East Valley, and his latest stop, at Basha High School, is one that he wouldn’t mind being his last.
“I don’t want to move any more,” said Busken, who has spent the last nine years coaching in the college ranks at four different schools. “College coaching is about the next job, moving up, getting more money. I wanted to live in my house. I was tired of moving and I wanted to see my family and friends and former players.
“I never dreamed that this job would open and lucky for me it worked out.”
Busken spent just seven of his 34-year coaching career in Arizona, but those extremely successful years at Mountain View allowed Busken to plant roots in the Valley.
The strength of those roots was tested in the spring of 2002 when Busken resigned after allegations surfaced charging Busken with verbal abuse of players, allowing hazing rituals and allowing what was called “excessive athlete-on-athlete contact” after being warned by the district to stop.
Busken was 82-9 from 1995-2001 at Mountain View, leading the Toros to three state championships and a 40-game winning streak. But he departed in 2002 with the reputation of being a bully, a coach that went over the line to motivate his players.
The 2010 version of Bernie Busken is a calmer, humbler man.
“I’m more relaxed,” Busken said. “I don’t feel it was ever about me. I do like to do well, but there are some lessons being learned that only this sport can teach and I want our young guys to learn those lessons and be productive citizens.
“Sometimes your focus gets clouded, but as I get older, the comaradie and loyalties that you have, those are really important to me.”
Since leaving Mountain View, Busken has coached at Southern Utah, West Texas State, Millsaps College and Western New Mexico. Busken was the head coach at Western New Mexico for the past three seasons (2007-09), compiling an 8-22 record.
But Busken’s mind was never far off from returning to the high school coaching ranks in Arizona.
“You do your job that you’re in and I just try to do the best I can wherever I’m at,” Busken said. “But sooner or later, I was going to come back.”
After eight seasons in college, Busken said coming back to coaching in high school is not that much different. The key, Busken said, “is communicating what you expect.”
“And here, we asked the players what they wanted, what kind of program they wanted,” Busken added. “They just want to do good, be disciplined and they want a chance to do well.”
Busken was hired by Basha in March and he’s been around the team for spring ball and summer workouts, but Monday will be the first official day of practice for the Bears and Busken is ready to get this latest chapter in his coaching career started.
“I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to getting the pads on,” Busken said. “Everybody is itching to get going.”