Wauseon boys basketball coach Chad Burt reached another milestone Friday night as his team took part in the Grube Family Holiday Classic at Defiance College. By holding off Paulding 38-37 in the first round of the tournament, the Indians helped Burt secure his 200th career win.
Burt, who is in the middle of his 12th season at the helm of his alma mater, currently boasts a record of 201-68.
However, as the humble coach admits, many people have a hand in making the program flourish.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches,” said Burt. “And I think it starts at the junior high level. For us Mike Webster, our eighth grade coach, does a great job of running our junior high program. We’ve had some different guys in there. But, I’m very fortunate that we teach and we preach the same thing from the seventh grade on up. And even before that (with) some of our youth coaches. The buy in is there, so when they get to the varsity level, they know the expectations and I think our coaches deserve a lot of credit. Obviously I’ve been blessed with some very, very good players over the years. Any coach will tell you that good players make coaches look good.”
Burt took over the reins from Ken Burgei – Wauseon’s all-time wins leader – ahead of the 2008-09 season. He also played for his predecessor, serving as a member of Wauseon’s state runner-up team after the 1993-94 season.
Burgei is someone Burt looked up to, and the former coach still helps him to this day.
“I think his biggest strength was (being) such a people person,” said Burt of Burgei. “I think he was very good at relationships. Kids just wanted to play hard for him. Obviously, it translates to wins on the basketball court.
“Just a tremendous person. He’s always there if I need advice. He’s still extremely supportive of the program. I just can’t say enough good things about him.”
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for Burt. In his first three years, he averaged just over 11 wins per season.
However, he stayed the course and with some help from his mentor and assistant coaches, got them winning consistently again.
“It wasn’t re-inventing the wheel by any stretch,” said Burt. “Ken Burgei, the all-time Wauseon leader in wins with over 300 (322), who I played for, was a tremendous coach. So I came in a little bit green behind the ears and just kind of feeling my way through it. I relied pretty heavily upon him for some advice. It’s one of those things, as I mentioned, our coaches have been very consistent. We haven’t had a lot of turnover. And the buy in is incredible from our coaching staff. Which certainly translates to the players.”
The program really began to turn the corner into what it is today under Burt, in 2011-12 where they posted a 20-win season, finishing 20-3. The next season he captured his first of five Northwest Ohio Athletic League championships.
Then there’s the last four seasons prior to this one, with the Indians posting 90 wins to just 12 losses. The highlight of that stretch was finishing a combined 52-3 in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
In 2016-17, he took his team to state where they finished runner-up to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. Trying to accomplish what he could not as a player, the Indians fell short to the Fighting Irish 45-30.
That state run will be a memory forever etched in his mind; in addition to some of the memorable games he has coached in along the way.
“The state tournament’s something I’ll never forget,” said Burt. “But, even playing in a district game against Jordan Lauf, Brett Lauf (both of Napoleon). We’ve been fortunate to make some good tournament runs and play against some tremendous players. And I’ve had some tremendous players (play) for me. Sometimes it’s the wins that you remember, sometimes it’s just the people you remember. It’s a little bit of both for me for sure.”
One of the games Burt was referring to came in the state runner-up season. In a back-and-forth district semifinal, it took double overtime for his Indians to knock off Brett Lauf’s Napoleon Wildcats, 59-57.
Expect many more memorable and meaningful games to come, as Burt gave no indication on wanting to stop coaching anytime soon.
At the pace he is on, the 44-year-old will likely one day surpass Burgei as the program’s all-time winningest coach.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010