EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Bob Burton, Part IV

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.

Titans head basketball 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 III) So how about the schedule for 2005-06, how is that shaping up and what difficulties have you had thus far in lining up teams to play?

 EXCLUSIVE: Burton Q&A

May 3, 2005: Part I
May 4, 2005: Part II
May 6, 2005: Part III
May 9, 2005: Part IV

Coach Burton: Well, this will make you sick ... The NIT called and they wanted to put us in the Pre-Season NIT, opening up with a nationally televised game at UCLA. But UCLA turned us down. They said if they had to play us they would not be in the tournament. That's the honest truth. So I phone Ben Howland, as we're very good friends, I even had my wife yelling at him on the phone ... It was going to be one of the opening games of the year. The four o'clock game was going to be Duke and whoever they're playing and then it would be UCLA and Fullerton.

We tried like heck to get that done. I was excited about that possibility. We're absolutely sick. I actually talked to one of their coaches over there and he said, "You know, this isn't going to happen. I know Ben's not going to play you."

Ben calls me up and says, "We can't let our friendship ... I don't want to play my friends," giving me that line. I told him, "Screw that friendship stuff. If you're a friend, you'll put us on national television. Hell, we're going to play at your place ... " I think Sporting News even has them ranked ninth in pre-season.

So I was giving Ben crap. I said, "Ben, when I got here, we talked about scheduling and you said what you wanted was a whole pre-season of a bunch of Fullerton's." He just said, "No, we're not playing you." He was very staunch on it.

So there was no sense in us going in the tournament since we would have been on our way to some god-awful place again. What you have to do is you have to block out three weeks of your schedule and we just couldn't do that.

So back to your original question, right now, here's tentatively the way it looks: We may open up at Arizona State which is going to be a tough one. Then we come back and play Hope or something like that, then we have Pepperdine at home. That's for sure. This game is scheduled to be played on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

We then have to go to South Dakota and they will return the game the following year. We then head to a tournament at USF (December 9-10) and we just got into a tournament at Florida International (Miami, FL) and I think we open up with Texas-San Antonio. So we are in two tournaments and we are still talking to San Jose State about a home and home.

We are going to scrimmage San Diego State and, if possible, the University of San Diego. (These are not open to the public)

TitanCentral.com: I heard rumblings about the possibility of playing Illinois? Is this still in the works?

Coach Burton: Illinois is still a possibility, Minnesota's still a possibility, Arizona's a possibility and we're also looking at Kansas State ... we're going to get one of those big guys because that's a guaranteed game. So that's about it right now. Actually, we are trying to get North Dakota State right now while we are up there playing South Dakota.

TitanCentral.com: What about some of the local schools like LMU, San Diego or SDSU or some of the other WCC teams?

Coach Burton: We called them but they won't play us. It's crazy. You name a school and I'll tell you about the conversation.

TitanCentral.com: Okay, how about USC?

Coach Burton: No. We called them for one of those buy games and I talked to Tim Floyd a few nights ago and he said, "No way we'll play you."

TitanCentral.com: So why doesn't anyone want to play us ? Is it because they think we'll be good next year?

Coach Burton: Yeah, that's what they say. ... How about this one? The Arizona State coaches said they won't play us but Jason Levy's working with the AD and he's oblivious to what their coaches are saying (laughs).

And it's this way up and down the coast and back east as well. We were supposed to play in a tourney at Marist, which would be fun because it's in New York, and when we got into the NIT they called us up and canceled us out. Then we were supposed to be at Columbia in a tournament and they canceled us out. Up and down the coast it's just crazy.

TitanCentral.com: What about Fresno State? You probably still have some contacts there, right?

Coach Burton: Fresno State turned us down. I called and talked to Steve Cleveland and he said no way are we playing you. Maybe the next year, when he gets it going, he might like to go home-and-home with us. So yeah, that's great, I'll be right on that one. You can literally go throughout the west and you're not going to find anybody who will play us.

When I got here to Fullerton these guys were sending cabs for us but it's been really, really difficult, especially since we have to schedule four more games with Idaho and Utah State leaving the conference.

TitanCentral.com: Sorry to hear it coach. Obviously we have had problems getting non-conference home games but never thought this would be a problem getting teams to play us on the road. Pac-10 teams afraid to play Fullerton in basketball on their home court is hilarious. Let's switch topics. Will our kids be participating in the Say No league again this summer?

Coach Burton: Yes. We are limited to how many kids can play together per the NCAA. I believe it's only two or three kids who can play on the same team. Right now, I know we would like to get Chris Minardo on a team. We know Gary Nunez will be in summer school plus he's up in Ventura. Manny Montano needs to go to summer school as well.

We really want our kids to play in the Say No. They guy who runs it is really Fullerton-friendly. He loves our kids. LB (Bobby Brown) thinks they have a team that could win the NCAA tournament. I was talking to him the other day. It's him, Frank Robinson, the point guard from UConn, the team is loaded.

TitanCentral.com: How about Jerard Moret and Jerrel Lake, could they play on that team?

Coach Burton: I believe they could but I would like to see them on a team where they could play more. I don't care what team they play on, I just want to make sure they get a lot of playing time.

So the kids are excited about that ... especially Frank since it's been so long since he's played organized ball.

TitanCentral.com: That's good to hear. We saw Robinson play last year and he and LB just dominated those highly acclaimed UCLA recruits. It's probably the reason why Ben Howland is afraid to play us.

Coach Burton: Yeah, LB scares the crap out of them. I'm telling you right now you are going to see a different guy out there next year and you're going to see it this summer. I worked him out yesterday and he's playing at such a higher level than I've ever seen. He looks older, he's more mature, he's starting to grow up a little bit in terms of leadership and he's just unstoppable out there. I really think he has a great chance to play at the next level.

TitanCentral.com: Great to hear. Titan fans are sure to show up and watch our guys play this summer. Last question. Augie Garrido was also from Fresno State and he took a no-name team at a no-name school and made it one of the best programs in the country. His top assistant, George horton, is now continuing with the tradition of Titan baseball. Have you thought about what kind of legacy you would like to leave at Cal State Fullerton? Is this a place you can retire?

Coach Burton: Yeah, I hope so. I know a lot of guys thought I came down here to retire (laughs).

When I went into West Valley it was one of the worst JC's in California. They won like four games the year before I got there and I got my butt kicked there for some time. It certainly wasn't as quick as winning 21 games in the second year. It then turned around and eventually became one of the best JC's in the state of California.

So I don't know ... as far as the legacy goes, I have to win a whole lot more games before I can even think about that. We have to come back next year and play well and have a good year and then the year after that, that's the way I look at it. That's the real test of a good program, when you win year in and year out, not just one year or two years.

Just leaving Cal State Fullerton as a real basketball school, that's my goal, that's what I want to see. If I can leave here with that, that we are good and this is the place to come and for the next guy to come in and it's an easy job for him because now it's established. I think that would be tremendous.