For the first time since being announced as the Florida Gators new assistant basketball coach on April 12, Rashon Burno met with the media on Thursday to discuss what brought him to Florida and how he plans to fit in with the Gators.
ADJUSTING TO A NEW HOME
A lifelong Northerner, Burno has spent most of his playing and coaching career in New York and Illinois. Though a move to Florida was undoubtedly a change of lifestyle for him and his family, he knew it was something he wanted from the moment he was offered an interview by head coach Billy Donovan. “I got on a plane with the intention of taking the job if offered. I was more nervous that I was not going to get an offer,” he said.
Burno got that offer and accepted the job immediately. He is already comfortable in Gainesville, FL but is being tested by two things in particular about the adjustment: the temperature and… “The most challenging part, obviously, is when you leave for your family,” he said, “but basketball-wise, you’re still doing the same thing. You’re still on the grind, still trying to evaluate talent. You may be looking at a little bit better talent than Manhattan, which is obviously an adjustment, but so far so good.”
Now that he’s adjusted, Burno expects the rest of his family to join him in approximately six weeks and knows that his children especially will love going to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. “They’re excited to because they’re of age where they know basketball,” he said. “I have twin boys who are age 11. They love basketball. They love Erving Walker. They thought he could do no wrong – small guy who could shoot it, offensive threat, they love that guy. At their age all they want to do is shoot, shoot, shoot. Not that Erv shot a lot. Not saying that. Not saying that. [Laughing] It’s good for those guys. They’re eager to get down here and make new friends and get in the community.”
He also has no expectation of being part of the seemingly endless rotation of Gators basketball assistants and expects to be wearing orange and blue for quite some time. “In this business I think, for me, I wanted to get with people who I respect. My prior relationship with Billy was built on mutual respect,” Burno said. “This is something that obviously I want to be a long-term fix or me. I’m not looking to go anywhere. I’m happy for the opportunity.”
THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB
As in many professions, moving up the ladder in the industry of college basketball is all about who you know. Luckily for Burno, a star player for St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, NJ under head coach Bob Hurley (a close friend of Donovan’s) and assistant under Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello (a friend and former assistant of Rick Pitino), he had the relationships and experience to get him his new gig.
“I think it goes back to working for a Pitino guy in Coach Masiello. You do a good job for someone in the family and the word travels. So I hope,” he said of how he got in touch with Donovan. “It was over a four-five year span of really picking [Donovan’s] brain about how to be a productive coach. I think that helped in the process because he got to know me off the floor. I think it paid dividends obviously with the opportunity to work for him.”
Though he did not know Donovan personally until a few years ago, Burno explained that he always admired his work from afar. “Just anybody that wins two national titles as a coach you’ve got to take your hat off to them and just respect what he does and what he stands for,” he said. “For me, from a coaching standpoint, he’s somebody that I looked up to and reached out to and was looking to build a relationship with.”
Burno added, “Just I think his offense was ahead of the game – pick and roll now you see pretty much throughout college basketball. I’m a big basketball fan so I was always a fan of his. It was just a matter of trying to build a relationship. [...] It just so happened this thing comes full circle that I can work for a guy like that.”
A TENACIOUS RECRUITER
One of Burno’s strong suits is his recruiting acumen and ability to relate to players. He described himself as “tenacious” in regards to bringing in players and explained that having a rough background can help relate to guys going through similar situations.
“I try to wear many hats because every kid is different. I try to adapt to a particular kid. But I’m just consistent with my message as far as talking to kids. Definitely one of aggression – just trying to make sure they understand where they stand with us,” he said. “You just try to use your own experience to try and help educate a kid on why this is a good opportunity for them. Having similar backgrounds with the kids I’m currently recruiting helps as well.”
One player Burno does not have to recruit is redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario, a fellow St. Anthony’s player who he will get to coach in his first year at Florida. Needless to say he is excited for the opportunity. “We are a fraternity. It’s really odd that I ended up coaching Mike his last year of college. I’ve known Mike for a long time and watched him for afar. He’s a talented kid. I think this is the first time in the history of St. Anthony’s that a former player is coaching [another] former player from St. Anthony’s,” he said.