The ceiling of women’s basketball Head Coach Jean Marie Burr’s office is a flurry of color. After Burr picked up her 300th career win over Dartmouth Jan. 27, her squad decorated her office with signs and streamers and baked her a cake. From the ceiling, 300 pieces of paper hang down, one for each win, each displaying the name of the opponent and the score of the game. As the winningest coach in Brown basketball history, Burr has had 15 winning seasons in her 24 years as a Bear. For her dedication to Brown and in celebration of her career milestone, The Herald has named Burr Athlete of the Week.
The Herald: Congratulations on your 300th career win. Do you remember your first win?
Burr: I just know that when I came to Brown, I just really wanted balance. The year before I came, they were 6-20, so my expectations were that some of my players that I was recruiting for (the) scholarship program would play in the league. The attraction would be the quality of education we have, the professors, the balance. I just knew we would do well. But I think it’s more the players I remember than (the specific games). I think of Krista Butterfield ’89 taking charges or looking at Margaret Fuchs ’91 on the bus and thinking, “Thank God she’s on my team.” It is the experience of working with people you work with and what they bring, consistently at Brown. I am proud of the players that have been on both the sides of the triumphs and the losses.
This is your 24th year at Brown. What is it about Brown that has made you stay so long?
It’s the student-athletes. It’s the quality, the commitment, their passion for the game. You really have to work hard as a coaching staff to find the right balance of players that can be the best basketball players and have that type of dedication, polish and skills and help us win an Ivy League Championship and play at the NCAA level. And then have success, a drive, a passion and a work ethic for their academics. You look at players like Hannah Passafuime ’12, Aileen Daniels ’12, Caroline King ’13, Sheila Dixon ’13 and Lindsay Nickel ’13 — they are really the models for a student-athlete at Brown. And that is what really has kept me here. That’s what makes it exciting.
What is your favorite part of the season?
It’s as the season is getting started — I love practice. I love the development. … And then when the games start up — it is almost like going to a test everyday. You want to get tested and you want to get ready. It’s really driven by the players, everything we do is driven by the players — what their goals are. Each game, the next game, is the best game.
What position did you play at the University of New Hampshire or on the New Jersey Gems?
I played whatever position the coach wanted me to play. I think when you are in that position you just like playing the game and you hope that people recognize your strengths, and when someone asked you to do something, you do it, and just appreciated the opportunity. What you find when you are able to step back from those playing years is the connection you made with all the people, and you just wish you could run the court just one more time, or play, or practice.
Do you follow college or professional basketball? Any teams you support?
I love the (Boston) Celtics. I grew up in Massachusetts, so I am very loyal to my New England teams. I’m rooting for the Patriots this weekend (in the Superbowl). In terms of college basketball, I probably find myself following coaches more than I follow teams — I just find it a good way to grow your game. I like studying the game.
You have four daughters — do any of them play basketball?
Two of them were first team All-State in volleyball, if you believe it, in Rhode Island. One of them is playing Division I volleyball at George Washington University. My husband coached my girls throughout their youth in my community in Coventry, Rhode Island. But my family grew up on buses. They have tailed many of my players like Krista Butterfield who graduated ’89 — I can think of Judee, her first words being “Krista.” Then Jessica following around Kate Veronneau ’06 and Joanna with Julie Amato ’99 and Jenna with Shae Fitzpatrick ’10. After they graduated, they were like, “Where did they go?” They have been a very positive influence on my family.
Any plans for the future?
Beat Princeton on Friday night. We’ve got our hands full with a team that made it to the tournament last year. I’m very confident with the teamwork and energy and bonding that this team has, and I am very excited to have the opportunity to coach them and work with them to achieve our goals this year. I’m living in the moment.