PRESCOTT VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Bret Burchard wasn’t born with a basketball in his hands – but it was close.
“I was born the first day of basketball camp,” jokes Burchard. “It started at the beginning when my sister and I were taking naps in the basketball cages at the gym.”
Burchard, the 32-year-old first-year head coach of the Northern Arizona Suns of the NBA’s G League, isn’t on a basketball journey. He’s fulfilling a basketball destiny.
“I was born and raised in this sport,” said Burchard following a recent NAZ Suns game in Prescott. “Everything I’ve done until this point has prepared me to be right here, right now.”
Born and raised in Columbia, Missouri, Burchard is the son of Bob Burchard, the NAIA Hall of Fame head basketball coach at Columbia College. Growing up Burchard - meant growing up basketball. The sport wasn’t a part of the family’s life – it was life.
“It wasn’t like dad’s working, and we’re over here,” said Burchard. “After school, I was doing my homework at practice. Friday nights, I was at practice. Sunday nights, I finished my homework so I could go to practice. It was our lifestyle.”
Bob taught Bret a love for the game – a love to play it – and maybe more importantly, a love to teach it
“Dad brought his work home,” said Bret. “And when he wasn’t home, I would go listen to him lecture the college kids at practice. I was in middle school and junior high at the time but he was also teaching me in those team meetings.”
Bob created a coach in his own right and when Bret finished his college playing career at Taylor University in Indiana, the younger Burchard knew it was time to pursue his passion. His first stop – two years on the bench at Taylor, working under long-time Trojan head coach Paul Patterson.
“I think that really shaped what I think a coach is – by my dad’s example and Coach Patterson’s example,” said Bret. “It wasn’t just, 'Hey go win some basketball games.' It was, 'How can you impact people in a long-lasting way through this avenue of basketball.'”
After two seasons at Taylor, Bret, seeking warmer weather and NBA dreams used his father’s connections to land a job in the Suns organization. Bret’s first job in Phoenix was in the public relations department – of the Phoenix Mercury. Bret accepted the job to get his foot in the door. He would have scrubbed the floors had that been the job. His position with the Mercury ended up as a seminal moment in a strategic rise through the Suns organization.
“I’ve always thought this,” said Bret. “I’m glad to have the job I have but also learn the job ahead of me. So while I’m there in my position, I’ll do the best job I can but also then start building a network and exploring different interests and growing my skill-set.”
Following his stint with the Mercury, Bret moved to the Suns' public relations department. From there, a huge jump to the basketball operations side as the team’s video coordinator. From video coordinator to Suns associate head coach, Bret jumped at the opportunity to be a head coach in the G League last fall.
“It just keeps progressing,” said Bret. “The Suns have been so good about allowing me places to keep growing. It’s really been a unique opportunity.”
Bret's professional journey in the sport of basketball is only beginning but he already packs a lifetime of lessons in his coaching DNA – a basketball lifer who was born and bred to teach the game. He's a coach fulfilling his own basketball destiny while helping others realize theirs.
“The G League is tough,” said Burchard. “It’s a hard grind for these guys. They don’t make much money and it’s not the lavish lifestyle of the NBA. They need a lot of help, support and encouragement so I feel like it’s a perfect spot for my skill-set and passions.”