Q&A with Bob Burton, Part I

Bob Burton is entering his fourth year as men's basketball head coach at Cal State Fullerton. At 48-41 in his three seasons to date, Coach Burton has a .539 winning percentage, second best of any Titans' head coach, trailing only Bobby Dye (109-78, .583) in the 1970s. Burton has more wins in his first three Titan seasons than any of his Div. I predecessors.

TitanCentral.com: Let's review the 2005-06 season. The Titans won 16 games and posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 22 years yet their was still a feeling that this team didn't accomplish what it set out to do. Being the pre-season Big West favorites certainly added to the pressure. What are your thoughts on last season? Do you think expectations were met?

Bob Burton: Our staff and our players thought it was a disappointing season. Going in I felt we shouldn't have been the pre-season pick. I think losing the guys like Ralphy Holmes, Yaphett King, Hardy Asprilla, tremendous players with heart plus we had a lot of unproven players ... but I still think we were much better and I think we really underachieved.

Having back-to-back seasons, I think that was great but that's not what we're trying to do here. We're trying to get where we are in the top half of the league and where we're competing to go to the NCAA Tournament.

At the end of the year we were playing really well and I think the game we had with Long Beach was tremendous. Everyone tells me it was one of the best tournament games they have ever seen there but we weren't good enough to win those close games. We were something like 3-6 in tight games whereas, the year before, we were 6-0.

So yes, we were very disappointed in the year. Our goals are to try to get to the top one or two and become Big West Champions.

TitanCentral.com: What was the most disappointing loss lost seeason?

Bob Burton: The most disappointing loss was obviously the Riverside loss here, one of the worst losses I ever had because we were way better and didn't play well.

TitanCentral.com: Looking back, Would you do anything different?

Bob Burton: I would have done some things differently. One, I didn't like our offense even though we were one of the top scoring teams. Our offense was pretty stagnant at times. In addition, I do realize the reason we didn't win games was because we didn't play the defense we needed to play.

We were always piece-mealing things together. Our lack of depth was such a huge problem. If two guys weren't on we would have a lot of problems.

Some other things happened along the lines of injuries, especially with Bobby Brown and Jamaal Brown. Jamaal had continual injuries and played through them. I remember one of the Irvine games where they were both hurt and shouldn't have played but they did play and we had no chance in those games.

TitanCentral.com: What is the emphasis going to be on this year's team? And without giving away all our secretes, any changes to the offense or defense?

Bob Burton: Our number one priority is to play better defense. I really haven't felt we have played good defense. When I was at community college our kids were always one of the best defensive teams in the state.

When I first got here we were trying to do some things to add some excitement to the program, get some scoring, running and doing all that. I would never change any of that but I think you can do both of them.

We now have the players and the depth to play the defense I want to play. You are going to see a totally different team, defensively, this year. We are going to  really pressure. We will try to use our athleticism, try to use our depth. I think we have a lot of kids who can play.

Before this year we were playing a containment defense and, though I never really liked it, I thought it was something we had to do. We played a lot of zone because of foul troubles we had to try to keep guys in the game.

The second part is going to be offensively. We are still going to run ,and that's our priority, but I also want to spend more time on taking the ball to the basket because I think we've got kids who can really get into the paint and start creating things. So getting into our sets and getting the ball to our best players to start with and then, if that's not there, we want more of a penetration type of offense.