Bob Burke, Staten Island native and college basketball legend in N.C., has died
Bob Daggett remembers making it down to North Carolina after telling Staten Island native Bob Burke he’d play basketball for him at Greensboro College in the early 1970s when he decided to get a haircut.
Sure enough, he did.
The next day, however, when Burke picked up Daggett before heading to school, he had a bit of news for his player.
“First thing he tells me is he’s going to get me a haircut, even though I just got one. I guess it wasn’t short enough,” laughed Daggett. "He was extremely demanding and as tough as nails.
"But once the practices or games were over, he was a great guy that would do anything for you.''
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Burke, who grew up in Midland Beach and eventually became a college basketball legend after spending 22 years at Chowan University, died on Saturday. He was 74.
Burke died at his home in Wilson, N.C., after enduring a number of health issues over the last 13 years or so, according to his son, Rob. He did not succumb to the coronavirus.
Burke played hoops at both New Dorp HS and Campbell College (N.C.) before eventually becoming a college hoops coach that led him to the Chowan job in 1980. When he became head coach of the Hawks, it was a junior college, but eventually it became a four-year university that played Division 3.
While at Chowan, he boasted a 419-217 record that included a whopping 12 straight 20-win seasons. He took the Hawks to three JUCO Sweet 16s, including one Final Four.
“If you played for Bob, you got a Ph.D in mental toughness,” Matt White Jr., another Island native who played for Burke at Chowan, told the Advance a few years back. “Really hard on you on the court, and the nicest guy in the world off it.”
Daggett’s brother, Gerard, was one of Burke’s best friends growing up and, during a visit to the Island in the early 1970s, he held a workout at Monsignor Farrell’s gym. Bob Daggett received an invite to join.
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He was there to look at someone else,'' said Daggett. "But I guess i wound up playing pretty well and he wound up taking me back with him when he returned to Carolina.''
Bob Daggett, who now resides in Venice, Fla., only played for Burke for one season. However, Daggett said he learned an awful lot from the coach.
"Anything I learned from Coach Burke was eye-opening,'' said Daggett. "I honestly learned so much in just a short amount of time. I’m indebted to him for all I learned, which happened to be a lot.''
Burke went onto become an assistant coach at the University of Hawaii, as well as with the Portland Trailblazers under Nate McMillan, who is one of his former players. After
suffering a heart attack in 2007, he stopped coaching.
Just over four years ago, Chowan named the basketball court at Helms Center “Bob Burke Court” with his wife, Jane, and a plethora of his former players in attendance. In addition, legendary Duke University coach Mike Kyzyzewski sent his congratulations via video.