Calera coach reaches milestone win

Calera basketball coach Robert Burdette picked up his 400th career win Friday night as the Eagles routed Horseshoe Bend at home, 88-26.

Burdette, however, was reluctant to focus on the milestone victory, turning the attention instead to his team.

He remained in the locker room while his accomplishment was recognized after the game.

&uot;I worry about the next one,&uot; Burdette said after his Eagles’ 62-point win. &uot;Hopefully we’ll play with a little more intensity than we did tonight.&uot;

Calera moved to 10-0 with the win and remains one of the top-ranked teams in the state, a familiar setting for the Eagles since Burdette took the reigns nine years ago.

Calera has won two state championships during his tenure as head coach, a Class 1A title in 1996 and another in 1997 after moving to Class 2A.

The Eagles made it to the Final Four in 1998, 1999 and 2000, and finished as Class 2A state runners up in 2002 and 2003.

But the number most easily recalled by Burdette is 115, the number of losses he has accumulated during his coaching career.

&uot;I can remember a lot of those a lot better,&uot; he said. &uot;You don’t ever forget those. Those stick with you a lot longer than the wins do.&uot;

Though high school basketball fans around the state are more likely to remember Burdette’s Eagles as a fixture at the state playoffs.

Calera has competed in the AHSAA Final Four at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center in seven of the last eight seasons and the Eagles appear to be poised for a return trip in 2004.

&uot;We’ve had a lot of good times and a lot of tough times, and I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of good people,&uot; Burdette said. &uot;And the basketball’s not bad either.

&uot;I work at a great place. I tell people all the time I’ve got the best job in the state.&uot;

Burdette’s contribution to Calera High School goes beyond a solid basketball program, said assistant principal Brent Copes.

&uot;He does a good job disciplining his athletes and does a good job building these kids up,&uot; Copes said.

&uot;He is also a big supporter of the academics.&uot;

Burdette’s coaching style hasn’t changed much since he first came to Calera.

The Eagles still find success by spreading the ball around and using the trap to overcome their opponents.

One thing that has changed, he said, is the way he approaches turnovers, lousy calls and bad breaks.

&uot;I’m much more mellow now,&uot; Burdette said. &uot;I used to be a yeller and a screamer.&uot;

Although he may be less vocal from the bench during Calera games, Burdette said he doesn’t shy away from raising his voice when it’s just his players on the court.

&uot;In practice, that’s a different story, we get after our kids.&uot;

The battle for Burdette’s 400th win was never in question.

The Eagles jumped out to a 23-11 lead at the end of the first period and then held Horseshoe Bend to single digits in the second, third and fourth periods to finish off the Generals, 88-26.

Calera’s stifling defense held Horseshoe Bend to just two points in the game’s final period.

Trey Russell had five steals and Terry Green had four, as the Eagles swiped the ball a total of 19 times.

Calera was led offensively by highly-touted George Drake. Drake scored 23 points and had two assists. He also led the team with 11 rebounds.

&uot;He’s a good player,&uot; Burdette said of Drake.

&uot;Right now, he’s on a different level than most guys he’s playing against.&uot;

Glynn Dowdell scored 18 points and posted seven rebounds while Dusty Downs led the Eagles with six assists.

Michael Ellison was perfect from the 3-point line, picking up 9 points on his three attempts