Two veterans in charge of the freshman team
A love of passing on their encyclopedic knowledge of basketball runs strong in Kirk Burrows and Dale Thomas.
Both have been well-known coaching figures in Del Norte County for many years.
For the second straight year the pair are working together as coaches with the Warrior boys freshman basketball team, with Burrows the head coach and Thomas his assistant.
Thomas started coaching at Del Norte High School back in 1957 and was head coach for both the varsity football and boys basketball programs. Burrows, in his 13 years as boys varsity basketball head coach, led the squad to a Northcoast Section title in 2002 and had it competing for the conference title practically every year, winning it several times. Currently, he is also the head cross country and boys golf coach at the school and is a PE and health teacher at Del Norte High.
For both men, teaching fundamentals and watching athletes grow has been a memorable experience.
“They’re doing pretty good,” Thomas said of his current players. “They don’t know it all yet but we’re teaching them the right fundamentals. I like working with the kids.”
While the freshman squad may not get all the accolades or attention like the varsity team, Burrows loves having the chance to work with the next generation of Warrior basketball players.
Asked if he missed coaching varsity, Burrows quickly and confidently replied, “No, I had my time. I’m really into this.”
There is no freshman league title to attain. Instead, at this level, it is about preparing players to contribute when they move on to the junior varsity and varsity programs, Burrows said.
“It’s about them learning the basics they need,” Burrows said. He believes that working on passing and dribbling skills “will pay off” when it becomes second nature to them.
“That’s my job,” he said.
The squad has played well this season. On Friday it defeated Arcata on the road 54-48 to improve to 6-0 for the year.
During practice on Thursday, the coaches’ enthusiasm and passion for the sport was on full display as Burrows and Thomas prepared for the next night’s game at Arcata.
During a drill designed to work on the press the Warriors expected from the Tigers on Friday night, the pair throughly went over the finer aspects of the game.
“You’ve got to hit him right over here when he’s open,” Burrows told one player after the ball was passed in a way that left it vulnerable to getting picked off.
Long coaching careers
Thomas began coaching basketball at Del Norte High School in 1959 and has coached off and on since then. He started with football at the school in 1957 and coached on the gridiron for a number of years, including a stint as head coach. Thomas was the head varsity boys basketball coach for the Warriors for nine years beginning in the mid-1970s and also was an assistant to Burrows when he was head boys varsity coach and was also head JV coach for a number of years. During his years at the school he has coached countless teens, including current Warrior boys basketball varsity assistant Dave Brous.
Thomas taught math at Del Norte High for many years before retiring in 1991. He turns 80 this year, but his love and passion for coaching are still strong.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s something fun to do when you’re close to 80.”
Burrows likes the way he and Thomas work together.
With his emphasis on the fundamentals and defense, and Thomas being great with offense, the blending of their strengths has worked well.
“He’s a good technician,” Thomas said about Burrows. He has been impressed with Burrows’ knowledge of the sport and the ability to relay that to the kids he coaches.
Growing up in Kansas, Burrows said that his dad was a hoops coach and he grew up with the sport.
“I love basketball,” he said.
Dick Trone has known both Burrows and Thomas for years.
Trone was a teammate of Thomas when both played on the gridiron at Humboldt State University in Arcata, and worked with him when Trone was athletic director at Del Norte High. Trone hired Burrows for the freshman basketball job at the high school in the mid 1980s, he said.
To have both of them coaching the freshman boys will be invaluable for these young men, Trone said.
“I just think that’s the greatest thing for our program,” Trone said. “With them coaching, the kids are really learning the fundamentals. That is so important on this level. They are learning how to do things the right way.”
“We are just really, really lucky to have them here,” Trone added. “They are both class individuals. They care about the kids.”