Winningest coach Burr retires after 26 years

Legendary women’s basketball head coach led Bruno to over 300 wins in quarter century at helm

Sports Editor
Friday, March 14, 2014

After compiling more wins, seasons and Ivy League championships than any women’s basketball coach in Brown history, Head Coach Jean Marie Burr announced her retirement Monday following the end of her 26th season.

Burr hangs up her whistle with a career record of 324-379, including 12 winning seasons. The four-time Rhode Island Women’s Coach of the Year led the Bears to a 10-18 mark this season, good for sixth in the Ivy League.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with quality people in every area of Brown University,” Burr said, according to a University press release. “The student-athletes I’ve coached will always be a part of my family.”

Burr concludes her tenure as the winningest coach in Brown basketball history — for either the women’s or men’s teams — in the process leading the team to four Ivy League titles. Prior to Burr’s hiring, the women’s basketball program had won 162 games in its 15 seasons of existence. Burr matched then doubled that total, breaking the coveted 300-win mark in 2012 and amassing 324 total victories in her time as coach.

“She’s won more than 300 games, she’s won Ivy championships and she’s brought a great feel for Brown and Ivy Athletics to work with her on a daily basis,” said Director of Athletics Jack Hayes.

Three consecutive Ivy titles from 1992-94 cemented Burr in Bruno lore, and the coach emerged as a key figure in Ivy League history in 1994. Following their league title that year, the Bears became the first women’s team from the Ancient Eight to participate in the NCAA tournament.

Looking back at a quarter-century of coaching, Burr said “so many stories” will stay with her. Former players, other coaches, faculty members and officials have contacted her since her retirement announcement to congratulate and thank her.

“We won championships, but they’re not talking about the games,” Burr said. “They are talking about the stories, the effect — talking about their lives.”

Burr built a great reputation with players as a parent-like figure, said Lauren Clarke ’14, who just finished her last season as a guard on the team.

“She’s one of those coaches who really, truly loves the game of basketball,” Clarke said. “She has a great relationship with everybody off the court. She’ll do anything she can for us.”

After capturing their fourth conference crown in 2006, Burr and the Bears hit rough waters. The team finished last in the league three seasons in a row and has not posted a record above .500 in Ivy play since. Despite overall struggles, Bruno sprinkled in moments of greatness — knocking off the University of Florida, a national powerhouse, in 2010 and spoiling Princeton’s title hopes with an upset this season.

Burr said it “never feels like it’s the right time” to retire, but she knows she’s had a full career. She added that with five graduating seniors and six incoming first-years — a relatively large recruiting class — personel turnover could act as a “springboard” for the next coach.

The search process for a new head coach has begun with the Department of Athletics forming a committee to find and review applicants, Hayes said. He added that he has already met with players on the women’s basketball team to discuss the search process and solicit opinions.

While the athletic department has yet to review any individual candidates, the pool will be developed in a variety of ways, Hayes said. Some candidates will reply to an online application, others will be invited by the search committee and some may be current assistant coaches at Brown.

Hayes said he expects to have a new coach named by May 1.

“When we do this, we want to move as quickly as possible, but not at the expense of doing a thorough search,” Hayes said.

“I’m looking forward to new energy and getting new opportunities,” said All-Ivy guard Sophie Bikofsky ’15, who will enter her senior campaign with Burr’s replacement. “We’ve struggled in the past two years, so that should be different.”


-With additional reporting by Bruno Zuccolo

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