Last week, longtime girls’ basketball coach Mike Burkett announced his retirement from coaching after 21 seasons and two state titles at St. Mary’s.
But the Pirates won’t be without a Burkett on their sideline next year, as St. Mary’s has announced the hiring of Mike’s son, Kyle as the new coach.
Kyle has assisted under Mike for 15 seasons and appeared to be an obvious choice.
“He was the No. 1,” said St. Mary’s athletic director Vince Nigro. “I knew the day was coming that Mike was going to decide to retire, so watching the dynamics on the bench and in practice, it was clear we didn’t need to look any further than Kyle.”
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Nigro said.
Kyle said while he will bring a ‘feisty’ approach to coaching the Pirates, people shouldn’t expect extreme changes now that he has the reins.
“In a lot of ways my dad handed over a decent amount to me to implement what I wanted to do,” Kyle said. “But it will still be a transition because it will be a new group, but hopefully this summer we can get in the gym and iron out some things.”
Kyle introduced an advance stat sheet in 2012 which provides St. Mary’s with detailed analytics to pinpoint and replicate success. Kyle said statistically, the most important piece is to average a point per possession. But fundamentally the program must retain the same elite work ethic.
“We have to be as dedicated as the group before us,” Kyle said. “To stay elite is going to take a lot of effort this year to step up to do it. Elite comes from doing the right things at the right moment and once we get them into the flow and they start figuring it out I think we are going to be fine.”
Mike told The Gazette last week that he hoped his son would take over, but added he would likely be more critical of Kyle than another candidate taking his seat.
It’s a challenge Kyle takes gladly.
“It’s been 15 years in the making and I’ve been ready for a while,” Kyle said. “I have stayed at St. Mary’s because I love the community and everything they stand for. You’ve got to love it to stick around as long as I have.”
Kyle took over the program briefly in 2018 on an interim basis, coaching the first five games of the season. The Pirates went 5-0 in that time, defeating opponents by 31 points on average.
“I would say there’s going to be a different flavor to it,” Kyle said. “I’ve got big shoes to fill and I’m going to do the best I can. I don’t want to change too much of what we have been doing because it works.”
Mike Burkett was 419-99 in 21 years and never coached a losing season.