TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Now that’s one tough act to follow.
In eight seasons as Eastern’s varsity girls basketball coach, John Burdette has led the Lady Eagles to eight sectional titles, four district crowns, three Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division titles, two regional championships and the 2014 Division IV State Championship.
Now it’s someone else’s turn to lead the Lady Eagles, as Burdette has resigned from his post and won’t be coaching anywhere for at least the next two years.
That’s because John’s daughter Jenna — who just completed her sophomore season at the University of Dayton where she was named All-Atlantic 10 third team — only has two seasons left with the Flyers.
“I don’t really want to leave, but I sat at one of Jenna’s games and thought ‘man, she only has two years left’,” said John Burdette. “We’ve missed out on a lot of away games that we could have went to, for either practice or games. Basically, I just want to be able to get to a few more of her games. I’ve missed some practices to go and watch her play, but I don’t want to be in a head coaching position where I ask everybody to give 120 percent, then I miss half the stuff.”
Burdette has a 156-44 varsity coaching record, including 98-18 in league games in eight seasons at EHS. Burdette has coached in the Eastern Local School District at various levels for the past 13 years, and helped coach in the Federal Hocking School District for two years prior to that.
In his sixth year of coaching the varsity Lady Eagles, Burdette led Eastern to its first-ever state championship. Jenna Burdette was one of five seniors — all of whom were starters — on the state title team. Four of the five starters went on to play basketball at the college level, with the other choosing to run track in college.
“There’s been a good group of kids that came through here,” said John Burdette. “Of course, the state championship was a highlight. I knew that I wanted to come back after winning the state and it was partly because most people said ‘he’ll leave after this’. I never really had any intentions of leaving. I planed on coming back and I wanted to come back, because I enjoy it.”
Burdette’s best coaching job may have been in the two years after winning the state title, when everyone thought that Eastern’s run was over. In the first year after winning it all, EHS had a starting five completely made up of freshmen and sophomores, while this past season EHS started three freshmen and didn’t have a senior on the team. Both years EHS went 13-3 in the league and made it to the district final.
John — who was TVC Hocking Coach of the Year three times and the ‘OVP 12’ Coach of the Year this past season — doesn’t intend of leaving the sideline forever.
“I would like to coach again in the future,” Burdette said. “It’s not that I got burnt out or that I want to quit. It’s just that there are priorities that a person has to take sometimes and right now watching Jenna play is my priority.”
The Lady Eagles have made it to the district final for seven consecutive years and, with no seniors on the 2015-16 team, the Green and Gold are set up for success in the future.
“The program is in good shape and there’s a lot of talent coming up through,” Burdette said. “I look for Eastern to be strong for the next six-or-seven years. I don’t really know how far down the line it runs, but I know that there are some good teams coming up through.
“It’s a great situation for a coach to step into,” Burdette added. “You have great girls here right now and this is one of the harder-working groups of girls that I’ve had, as a whole. They should all be back, it doesn’t matter who’s coaching. You play the game because you love the game, not because of the coach.”
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.