Staying in the desert under the Suns

Austin Spurs AT NAZ Suns March 29, 2017 in Prescott Valley, Ariz. (Matt Hinshaw/NAZ Suns)

Justin Chapman | Echo

Taylor alum Bret Burchard (’08) is climbing the ranks. Burchard is officially an assistant coach for the NBA team the Phoenix Suns. Burchard earned the promotion after the Suns fired their former head coach, Earl Watson, after an 0–3 start to the NBA season.

Assistant coach Jay Triano was then named interim head coach. The Suns then decided to bring up coaches Ty Ellis, Burchard and Brandon Rosenthal from the Northern Arizona Suns, the Phoenix Suns’ developmental team in the NBA G League.

Burchard joined the Suns in 2010, and is in the midst of his eighth year with the organization. He first started out as the communications coordinator for three seasons, he then moved to assistant video coordinator for one season and then was head video coordinator for two seasons. Last year, he was an assistant coach for the Northern Arizona Suns.

On Oct. 22, Burchard was driving to the Northern Arizona Suns’ training camp in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Burchard received a call from Triano and was told the news that he was being promoted to assistant coach for Phoenix. So, Burchard finished his drive to Prescott Valley, packed a bag and drove right back to Phoenix.

“To take this next step and know that they’re trusting me with some more responsibility and have seen the work that I’ve done over the course of time, that feels good to be noticed, to be appreciated and to be rewarded in that way,” Burchard said.

Burchard played basketball at Taylor from 2004–08. He was not an All-American or a huge scorer by any means, but Burchard was a role player for the Trojans. He averaged 3.1 points per game and 2.7 rebounds per game his senior season at Taylor.

Since he is in the midst of his eighth season with the Suns’ organization, being moved up to assistant coach makes him feel like he’s right at home. While he is excited to be behind the bench, he did not intend to end up in this spot.

His dad is a college basketball coach at Columbia, and Burchard was an assistant coach at Taylor for two seasons after he graduated. Burchard knew he wanted to keep coaching, but he was not sure at what level.

His role is no different than the other coaches, which Burchard enjoys. Triano is the leader as the head coach, but the other coaches all have similar responsibilities.

“You’re not pegged into one spot,” Burchard said. “We’re all coaching, we’re all together helping our players improve. Whether it’s focusing on shooting instruction, which I try to spend a little more time on, whether it’s working on different skills, whether it’s showing them video clips of things they’ve done well or things they need to improve on. I have responsibilities in game preparation, doing 18 scouting reports this year.”

Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Kyle Gould knew Burchard fairly well as a student-athlete and got to know him better as Burchard moved into the assistant coaching role at Taylor. Gould intended for him to come talk to all the athletes this fall, but they could not get their schedules to align.

Gould thinks Burchard is an incredibly mature person and is not shocked at all to hear he is thriving in the NBA. When Gould heard the news, he was very happy for Burchard, but not surprised since he knows Burchard has made a name for himself.

“When you’re a small college guy coaching NBA guys, you have to prove yourself every day, and that’s what he’s done,” Gould said. “If you think about it, NBA basketball players are trusting him to help them develop, which is incredible.”

Former Taylor University men’s basketball coach Paul Patterson is thrilled for Burchard. He knows from their relationship Burchard is going to do everything to follow God no matter what Burchard is doing. In fact, when Burchard graduated and moved into the assistant coaching position at Taylor, he and Patterson would have conversations about how God’s Word directly applies to athletics.

Patterson has high regard for Burchard. According to Patterson, Burchard also knew how to train and work in an efficient manner. He wanted to work harder than anybody else.

“He had this inner drive,” Patterson said. “He just wasn’t gonna let you beat him. He was a guy who could guard the best player on the other team. He had to work hard, let me go back and say this, he had to work hard to get minutes played, but he just had this spark.”

Burchard also helps run an organization called Sight Shift Athletes. He co-founded this organization with his friend Chris McAlister. The mission of Sight Shift Athletes is to get athletes to a maximum performance state mentally. The way this plays out is getting athletes to be present in the moment, trust the future will work out the way it is supposed to and bring their talents and skills to the table.

This is an exciting time for Burchard, and while being in the NBA is glamorous, he enjoys working with pleasant people more than the recognition he receives. He respects Triano as a person, making his job more satisfying.

Since starting 0–3, Phoenix has gone 4–1 since the coaching changes, making their record 4–4. Their next game is tonight against the New York Knicks at 7:30 p.m. in Madison Square Garden.

“Photograph provided by Bret Burchard”