Wednesday, April 16, 2014
WESTBROOK - Mike Burke calls it the next chapter to his coaching career. At just 34, that career has already made a number of coaching stops. But the latest is the one Burke coveted. He is the new Westbrook High boys' varsity basketball coach.
"I'm certainly excited," said Burke. "To be able to teach and coach in the same school district seemed like a great opportunity. I like the philosophy of getting to know the kids as a teacher."
Burke is a sixth grade language arts and social studies teacher at Westbrook Middle School. The former Gorham High basketball standout replaces Mark Karter, who was named the Gorham coach earlier. Karter was Westbrook's head coach for 21 seasons, winning three Western Maine Class A titles.
For the last four seasons, Burke has been on the basketball coaching staff at South Portland. The first three years, he was a Red Riot varsity assistant. This past winter, he was the JV coach. His team went 13-5.
Burke played for Kevin Jenkins at Gorham and said he would bring plenty of old school style Gorham basketball to his new post. Burke scored 1,090 career points as a 6-foot post player for the Rams. He helped the Rams win the Class B state basketball championship in 1996. He was a three-sport athlete (soccer, basketball, baseball) at Gorham and graduated in 1997.
He went to Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and graduated in 2001 with a degree in history. He figured he would continue his basketball career in college, but ended up playing football in his junior and senior years.
"I didn't play any basketball in college," said Burke. "A lot of my friends there were football players and I started working out with them. I put on 40 good pounds and ended up playing defensive end and nose tackle my last two years."
After college, Burke got a job teaching ninth grade world history at Bonny Eagle and serving as an assistant football coach for head coach Kevin Cooper.
He stayed for two years and then headed to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, for six years, teaching and coaching. He returned to Maine and joined the South Portland basketball staff.
Burke also serves as the defensive coordinator for Westbrook football and is an assistant baseball coach at South Portland for head coach Mike Owens.
Burke and Owens were teammates at Gorham. Now he'll be running his own program at Westbrook.
"It's been nice easing my way back into coaching here," said Burke.
Burke believes building a team's playing style around the talents of his players. He said his three tenets of coaching will be communication, high expectations and perspective.
"Phil Conley does a great job at South Portland of letting players know they're part of the basketball program." said Burke.
Burke and his wife, Jackie, are the parents of newborn daughter, Victoria.
"Although Coach Burke has a passion for athletics, he separated himself as a candidate with his commitment to the classroom and education of all children," said Westbrook Athletics Director Marc Sawyer.
"He embodies perseverance, aspirations and integrity," he said.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: