After 45 years of football this might be it for Tim McBurney.
The former Tempe High and Basha coach returned to the Buffaloes to be an assistant coach two years (three seasons) ago, where he played and eventually became a volunteer assistant in 1970. Nearly 20 years ago, he returned to help build the Tempe program into a state championship winner before leaving to open up Basha when the school opened and coach his kids. He won a lot more games there until the school chose to go in a different direction in 2010, and hired Bernie Busken.
The knees aren’t the same these days at age 64. Or the hip. Same with the passion for grinding through a football season — including all his fall weekends spent watching film and prepping for the next week — even while the Buffaloes have resurrected themselves from 0-10 in 2010 to consecutive winning seasons and playoff appearances.
“I’ve done as much as I’m going to do there,” he said this week.
It was a whole lot. As if the downtrodden times at Tempe weren’t difficult enough to resurrect into a winner in this period of time, it goes well beyond wins and losses and whatever happens on the field at Tempe, and McBurney played a variety of roles as an assistant with much influence. Discipline being among the top traits.
To that end, he raved about Tempe principal Mark Yslas (the 14th principal he’s worked under in his career) for his work at the school and with athletics. But a guy with McBurney’s caché and history at the school — he played there in the 1970s — played a huge role in the positive reversal of fortunes, on and off a football field.
The McBurney house was recently sold as he and his wife attempt to downsize to something smaller around Tempe. His mother, 93, still lives in Tempe, so more time will be spent with her. The Pinetop and White Mountain regions are beckoning, where he can fish, hunt and play golf. He used to spend all of July up there before football season. Now, he’s wondering why only spend one summer month in the great wide open.
As he said, “Never say never” when it comes to scratching the ol’ football coaching itch. You never know.
But if he decides this is the end, it’s as wide as he’s smiled in quite some time.
“I had a great run and great opportunity,” he said. “It’s time to turn it over to younger guys. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it doesn’t mean I have to keep doing it until I die.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.