From writing letters to leading a program: Katy’s Burg takes over at Georgia Southern

Then-Texas Tech assistant coach Brian Burg, left, talks to head coach Chris Beard during a game.

BY DENNIS SILVA II | densilva2@gmail.com

For 29 consecutive days in 2005, Brian Burg wrote letters to then-Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Bob Knight and Knight’s then-assistant coach Chris Beard.

Burg, fresh off a graduate assistant coaching gig at NCAA Division III Lake Erie College, knew he wanted to be a basketball coach. But he needed an opportunity.

Burg admired Beard for the passion and communication skills he saw first-hand when Beard coached summer camps Burg attended as a child. So, Burg tried his luck. Day after day produced letter after letter. Finally, after Knight got perturbed with Burg’s persistence, Burg received an exasperated call from Beard, who acknowledged Burg’s desire, told him to stop writing Knight, and eventually set Burg up with a job for a junior college program.

Since then, it’s been a grind for the Katy native Burg in climbing the ladder of a profession that’s not for the meek. From Garden City Community College to Western Texas College to Middle Tennessee State to Campbell to North Carolina Central to Little Rock. Then, in 2016, landing at Texas Tech under Beard, enjoying a mesmerizing Final Four run to the championship game in 2019, and then, now, to the culmination of it all in Statesboro, Georgia.

Fifteen years after that initial opportunity with Garden City Community College, Burg was named head coach of the Georgia Southern University men’s basketball program on March 29.

“It’s a dream come true,” Burg said in a news release on Georgia Southern University’s athletics website. “I couldn’t be more excited.”

It is Burg’s first head coaching job at any level. Georgia Southern competes in NCAA Division I’s Sun Belt Conference.

Burg’s hiring comes as no surprise to those who know him best. It was just a matter of time.

“I’ve been involved with 25-30 coaches of Division I and junior college, and he’s the best coach I’ve been around, in terms of being a hard worker, being loyal, doing things no one else wants to or is willing to do, and making the right decisions that will enable a program to be successful,” said Brian Marso, who gave Burg his first true coaching job at Garden Community College.

When Burg was helping lead the Red Raiders to their first Final Four last year, he told 281sportsunlimited.com how much he embraced the workmanlike hustle of his career.

“When I have the chance, I take a deep breath and look back. I embrace it,” Burg said at the time. “I can relate to the coaches who drive 15-passenger vans after games and eat sack lunches. This has been a great run for me. If I could ever give a message to a coach grinding to reach his goals, I’d say stick with it. I’ve been there. It’s been an unbelievable journey, and I try to enjoy the process and the journey while I’m at it.”

Burg attended Katy Elementary and Katy High School before finishing his senior year of high school at Cypress Falls High in 1998. The coaching influences from childhood years in Katy have been life-lasting.

It started with George Crockett, who was “the first competitiveness I saw at Katy Elementary,” to Billy Fowler and Dean Darrow at Katy Junior High, and then to Jody Sory and Brooks Boynton at Katy High.

“It was the overall culture of winning,” said Burg, whose parents James and Kathy still live in old town Katy. “It wasn’t just football, it was all sports. Just the way coaches carried themselves with the culture and offseason programs. You’re going to work. There’s no entitlement at Katy High. It’s a blue-collar mentality, and it’s something that’s really stuck with me in my coaching career. If you work, success will follow.”

Burg is highly regarded as a recruiter and developer of talent. His work ethic is impressive.

“Brian’s commitment to the comprehensive development of our student-athletes on-and-off the court resonated with the search committee,” Georgia Southern athletic director Jared Benko said in the news release. “As we spoke to some of the best and brightest college basketball minds in the country, his name continued to come up time and again.”

In Burg’s four seasons with Texas Tech, the Red Raiders went 94-44 with two deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.

“Burg’s contributions to our success cannot be overstated,” Beard said in a news release. “He is a great coach, relentless recruiter and someone who worked his way through multiple levels of college basketball to earn this opportunity. I know that he will build on the success that Georgia Southern has established through his unmatched work ethic.”

Georgia Southern has finished in the top-5 in each of its six seasons in the Sun Belt Conference. Georgia Southern tallied 20-plus wins for the third straight season in 2019-2020, a feat not accomplished since 1986-89.

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