By Jordan J. Michael
VOORHEESVILLE –– David Burch is back to coaching basketball at Voorheesville and he couldn’t be more pleased about it. He’s taken the place of Don Catellier, who resigned last spring.
Burch is a 1995 Voorheesville graduate and was the Birds’ junior-varsity coach under Catellier from 2005 to 2010. On Tuesday, Burch directed the varsity team during a high-energy home scrimmage against Berne-Knox-Westerlo.
The tall, youthful looking 35-year-old commanded the sidelines like a natural. The Voorheesville players gave Burch their complete, undivided attention, and the coach returned the favor with shades of positive reinforcement.
“It’s great to be back, and it’s very challenging,” Burch said after the relatively balanced scrimmage. “We have a great group of kids this year. I really missed coaching.”
Burch, a fifth-grade teacher at Voorheesville Elementary, stepped away from coaching after his wife gave birth to their first child. At the time, he did not want to try to balance coaching with parenting.
“I was hoping, and waiting, for the job to come open, and it did,” said Burch. “The timing was right for me. I had to stop for a few years, but this was the right time for me to come back.”
After graduating from Voorheesville, Burch attended Skidmore College. He received more honors and set more records than any other basketball player in Skidmore history before graduating in 1999. Burch was inducted into Skidmore’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. The former women’s college started admitting men in 1971.
Burch was a three-time All-Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association selection at Skidmore. He was MVP for three consecutive years (1997,1998, 1999), and was Skidmore’s Male Senior Athlete of the Year in 1999. Before Burch graduated, he had set multiple records, including 41 points against Union College, 14 made free throws against Swarthmore, and a season average of 21 points per game.
Burch scored in double figures for 38 consecutive games, and reached more than 10 points and 10 rebounds in 31 games. His 1,521 career points is second all-time at Skidmore, and his 785 career rebounds is first.
Professional basketball in Europe was Burch’s next endeavor, playing one year in England and three years in Norway. “In Europe, every country has their own version of the NBA,” he said on Tuesday. “People in America don’t really understand, and I don’t blame them.’
So, Burch brings a ton of basketball experience to the court. He’s diverse, and tries to build off the positives. The most important thing he thinks a team can do is play and work together.
“The kids seem to be enthusiastic and ready to work,” Burch said of the Voorheesville players. “They’re looking forward.”
The Birds’ first Colonial Council game is Friday at Watervliet at 7 p.m.
Junior Noah Crawford, who broke out last season, and dunked the ball on Tuesday, told The Enterprise that Burch coaches the game differently than Catellier, who resigned after a series of complaints from parents. Crawford’s father, Harris, was not a fan of Catellier’s alleged verbal abuse.
“Mr. Burch is a good coach and a good guy,” said Noah Crawford. “He’s nice, athletic, really tall, and always compliments me on everything I do. He compliments everyone.”
Burch said that he really enjoyed his time as junior-varsity coach under Catellier. “I think he worked real hard to prepare the kids,” Burch said. “He came to the gym every day and tried to be the best coach he could be.”
Did Burch ever hear anyone talk negative about Catellier’s behavior towards the players?
“Not that much, no,” Burch said, “but, if I did hear something, I tried to turn it into something positive.”
Crawford said that Burch is just a different coach than Catellier.
“Whenever someone does something bad, he doesn’t get on their case,” said Crawford of Burch. “He tells us to keep our head up. He’s always there for you.”
During the scrimmage on Tuesday, Voorheesville was out-rebounded by BKW and sometimes out-hustled, too. The exhibition had the feel of a real game. The Blackbirds and the Bulldogs played six periods of 10 minutes, each winning three.
“The effort level was high today, and my guys should be proud of the effort they’ve shown,” Burch said. “Our help-side defense and rebounding needs some work, and we need to be a little more patient on offense.”
Burch is close to the same age as BKW Head Coach Andy Wright, and the two used to play ball together in the park as kids, but never actually played a real game against one another. BKW and Voorheesville didn’t match-up in the mid-’90s, but now the two neighboring schools see each other at least once per year.
“Growing up in the area, it’s always nice to get together with a neighboring school,” said Burch. Voorheesville will host BKW in its tournament this season. “I’ve known Andy for a while, so it’s nice seeing him,” he said.
The Bulldogs’ 2011-12 season ended at Voorheesville when Crawford blocked Tristan Wilson’s three-pointer at the end of overtime. It was a game for the ages.
“We want to come and show that we can compete against a school that plays in a tougher conference,” Wright said. “David has a lot of credentials, so it’s tough for anyone to match his accolades. He’s an educator, so I’m sure it’ll translate pretty well.”
Burch said that he’s taking this coaching position “very seriously,” and his goals for the Blackbirds revolve around steady improvement and professional attitude. “If we keep improving every day,” he said, “then the wins should start coming.”
Basketball has been part of Burch’s life for 23 years. He said he had some sort of vision the other day of all the time he’s spent playing and coaching basketball.
“It’s nice to get back into the gym, talking basketball, and trying to motivate the kids,” he said. “It’s really nice.”