EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Bob Burton, Part III

All Titan fans wanted was a winning basketball season, something they had been holding onto for 12 long years. Some fans had never seen one and many more had stopped following long ago. What they received, however, was something much more: 21 wins and the second best season in the history of the program. The person most responsible for this spectacular turnaround is Titans head coach Bob Burton.

Coach Bob Burton sat down with TitanCentral.com recently for an exclusive interview where we discuss this past year, the players who made the season possible, recruiting, schedules, contracts and what's in store for next season.

TitanCentral.com: (Continued from Part II) Athletic director Brian Quinn also has to feel vindicated, especially after a very likable Donny Daniels abruptly left and then with all the problems from last year. Did you feel any pressure to have a good year this year?

Coach Burton: I told Brian this last year, "If you guys are ever unhappy with me, just tell me and I'm out." I'm not one of those hang-on-for-next-year kind of guys. That's not why I coach. I coach to win and if I'm not winning, I'm going to be the first guy to be hard on myself.

TitanCentral.com: You still won more games during your 2003-04 inaugural campaign (11) than we had since the 1998-99 season. obviously you weren't very happy with the way the team performed that first year but TitanCentral.com was ecstatic that we finally had a coach who knew what he was doing during a game. We talked about Ralphy living up to his hype but this past season proved without a doubt you are one of the top coaches in the game.

Coach Burton: Well, thanks. We'll see how good I look when I'm running "taco" when Ralphy's playing in the NBA or overseas and the guy misses the shot or something like that (laughs) ... It's really ... you know, you have got to have good players.

TitanCentral.com: Speaking of which the talent level since you have taken over has certainly been on the rise. I guess it's time to put the 2004-05 season to rest ... what's in store for next season?

Coach Burton: I really like the group we have coming in. I think it's going to keep going plus we have one more scholarship to give this year. We're really running out of scholarships though. There are so many kids we are looking at and they are all high-level players. It's really becoming a popular place to play in Southern California right now. Assistant Marlon Morton also has a lot of contacts.

TitanCentral.com: Let's talk a little about the new assistant from Westchester. He does seem to know a lot of kids.

 EXCLUSIVE: Burton Q&A

May 3, 2005: Part I
May 4, 2005: Part II
May 6, 2005: Part III
May 7, 2005: Part IV

Coach Burton: He's going to be absolutely terrific for us. You know, we waited a year for him to come. First, he didn't have his degree so we had to wait for him to complete that, which he did.

He's probably the most connected coach in Los Angeles. What I love about him is that he has really worked hard to get here. He worked for American Airlines for 15 years, starting out as a baggage guy right up to working with the planes.

He was always a tremendous help to us while at Westchester, obviously. Bobby Brown, John Clemmons and even David Warsaw. All of those kids will tell you how much they respect him and how important he is in their lives.

The reason we didn't bring him on during the year (after he got his degree) was probably more me than anything else. I could see where Westchester was going and I thought they had an opportunity to win the state championship. I thought this was a once in a lifetime thing, even though this is was his second one. In addition, we were going great.

We're really fortunate to have him.

TitanCentral.com: What about recruiting for 2006-07? It looks like you will have only two available, is this correct.

Coach Burton: Yes, I think that's correct. We'll lose Jamaal Brown and Jermaine Harper and if we give the one we have this year away, I think we have two to give. We'll need a point and then we need a two-guard. If we ran into a two-guard this year we would take him.

In addition, we'll work hard to get another walk-on. We don't have very many guards. At the two-spot we have Jermaine and Vershon Cottrell and at the three you're looking at Frank Robinson, Danny Lambert and, of course, Jerard Moret, who will be a two-three. We will also slide LB over when Clemmons is playing the one.

TitanCentral.com: Sounds like we actually have some good continuity going on. Let's discuss the recruits who are coming in this year. How do you see them fitting into the program and do you see any of them redshirting?

Coach Burton: It's really interesting, they're all coming in with great attitudes. Chris Minardo would actually like to redshirt ... What we'll do with all of them is, we don't have to make a decision on them redshirting until right before the first game. I think the NCAA passed a rule that they can even play in the exhibition games so this helps as well.

Back to Chris, I think he has a chance to play for us this year. He is so skilled and he is really athletic, talented and he's 6'-9", plus he has three years. He's the type of guy who drives and wants to dunk on you. His whole thing is just strength. He's so skinny.

It's been tough on him. Chris was so excited after his season was over on lifting but then he had to have surgery on his wrist. He went in a couple days ago to get his cast off and they said, no, it's only healed about 40%. He has another four more weeks minimum. He needs to get in that weight room and really get going on this. I was thinking about having him hang out with Barry Bonds for a few weeks.

Manny Montano, another possible redshirt. He's 6'-10" and can run. He hasn't played much is his deal. He's played about four years of basketball as he started playing his junior year of high school. He hasn't really done very well and doesn't really understand yet what it takes to be a player. So if you can redshirt him and the light goes on, now you've got a 6-10 athletic kid who can block shots. But he would be the first to tell you he didn't have a very good year.

The kid Brian Marks is another player who might redshirt. He's got the body and size, he's huge, when you see him he's just gigantic. He's probably 6'-8" and 260. He runs pretty well, catches it, he's a low-post guy, but he's a ways away as well.

But to be honest, I think that's when a program gets really good when you can start redshirting kids like that. If you look at Utah State and those kind of guys ... Those kids mature and you get them in your system for a year and they really grow up.

We think Gary Nunez is going to play major minutes for us, no question about that. He's just outstanding. I spoke at their banquet a week ago and they had a highlight film of the season and he was all over it. He was just phenomenal. He's really skilled. He can spin dribble by you, he can power it on you and he can really pass it. He has an old man kind of game but he's really strong and he knows how to play.

And then there's Jerard Moret. We think he's going to come in and play major minutes for us ... and also Jerrell Lake. Lake will be a late developing guy. I don't know if there's a redshirt there for him ... We're going to try and play him at two positions. I'd actually like to play him at the three. LB and those guys swear he can shoot it but he played inside at Westchester. He is so athletic. I think he's one of those guys, where all of a sudden he's in his sophomore or junior year guys will be saying, "Where did this guy come from?" Great upside with him.

Also, another positive thing for us is Lake, Moret and Minardo have already been admitted into school. Lake and Moret only need to qualify with the NCAA. So that's a big hurdle.