Q&A with Bob Burton, Part V

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.

This interview is a continuation from Part I, Part II, Part III and Part V

TitanCentral.com: What do you think it takes to start getting bigger crowds into Historic Titan Gym?

Bob Burton: We have to win and I think that's more on me than anybody else. We have to put a winning program out there.

A great example of the crowds we can have is the UOP game which was on ESPN. Walking into that gym and seeing all those students there, dressed up and what a thrill it was to coach that game and watching how hard our kids played.

We came out on the wrong side but it was exciting. Then we came right back the next game and nobody's there. What we really need to do is become so good that they just want to be part of it.

TitanCentral.com: Most people felt you -- or anyone for that matter -- could not turn this program around yet you have accomplished this feat in your first three years in most peoples minds. Is the program where you thought it would be when you first took over the head coaching job?

Bob Burton: It is with the quality of players we have here. I'm very, very happy with that part of it. I'm not happy with the way I've coached to be very honest. We need to see better defensive teams and I think that's on me.

I do think what some people need to understand is that there were so many holes to fill coming into this thing. The first thing was to get good players, good guys, kids who want to go school. Now my goal is to get to the stage where we are very good defensively yet we are still playing a fast and exciting tempo that the kids like and the fans like.

TitanCentral.com: Tell us a little more about the APR and how this is affecting Cal State Fullerton. Are we in jeapordy of losing any scholarships?

Bob Burton: The new APR is a tough thing to deal with and very hard for anybody to understand. Because of our past we are at the cutoff number for losing scholarships (Editor believes it's around 700). So, if a kid leaves your program in poor academic standing you lose a scholarship.

Since I've got here we have some kids leave but most have left in good academic standing so it doesn't hurt you. For example Manny Montano and Gary Nunez left in good academic standing and we did not lose a scholarship.

Until we get above that 900 score and get some leeway we will lose a scholarship if a kid leaves in poor academic standing. Cal Poly is in a similar situation. As good as they are academically, they lost two scholarships last year because they had two kids who left in poor academic standing which is amazing because it's such a hard school to get in to.

So, yes, this is a huge priority for us and they are trying to make a real commitment here to help us. They are hiring a head of the counseling center for the whole athletic department and basketball is going to be a real priority in this.

I've had my coaches working around the clock on academics and it's taken them completely out of recruiting. We can't continue to work that way.

Most of our kids we have here are doing well and I think they are going to graduate.

We have two seniors who are right on track. Justin Burns only needs 16 units to get his degree so he's way ahead of the game. LB will be a project because when springtime comes he will be back doing the NBA stuff again. The NCAA does give some leeway on this. If a kid goes on and signs a pro contract then he's not counted as an o-for-2 but he's still counted as an 0-for-1.

I think what the NCAA is doing is great but very few times do you see major colleges ever losing a scholarship due to the APR. Why is that? Are they brighter kids? No. Their support systems are incredible.

TitanCentral.com: Obviously you can't talk about specific players you are recruiting but can you give the fans an idea on the types of players your are trying to bring in for the 2007-08 season?

Bob Burton: We will have three scholarships and what we want to do is recruit a five and two wings. Ideally we want to recruit a JC wing, which we have a commitment from a kid and he's terrific, and we want to recruit a high school wing if we can.

Finding real big guys is very hard so it could be another four but hopefully he's a good playing four who can also play the five.

(Editor's Note: This interview was conducted before the latest commitment of a 7'-2" player.)

TitanCentral.com: Last question. What's your take on the conference a a whole this year?

Bob Burton: I've never seen anything like this before where it's so open anyone can win the the Big West. I thought the first magazine was pretty fair when they ranked Long Beach number one, number two UOP.

I think we could be anywhere from fifth to first. I also think everyone else can as well.

Santa Barbara is much improved. It's going to be an abolute crapshoot on who is going to win this thing. And it's going to be fun to see a team like Long Beach have that label put on them like we did last year.

The league is terrific but if UOP wins it again this year I give up. The guy will be Coach of the Century because he keeps losing so many players. They lose Maraker and Gray ...

There's no doubt Pacific will be good because they have such a great winning tradition and those kids understand how to win where the rest of us are still trying to figure out how to win.