BY JEREMY HOECK
The last time Robin Burgard stepped off the basketball floor in an official capacity, his Sioux Falls Lincoln boys’ squad was celebrating a state championship.
That was in 2009.
Six years later, Burgard will return to the bench, this time at the collegiate level and this time as an assistant coach at Mount Marty College. He was hired last week as the top assistant for Lancers head coach Andrew Baker, whose program is seeking an ascent up the ladder in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
For Bugard, he was ready to get back into basketball after a 20-plus year career that including 18 seasons as an assistant at Sioux Falls Lincoln and five seasons as the head coach. He had originally stepped aside from coaching to spend time with his family, and to watch his son Cameron play for the Dakota Schoolers (from 2010-13).
Shortly after putting out feelers for available openings in the area, Burgard interviewed at Mount Marty two weeks ago and was on campus a few days later.
In addition to his basketball duties, Burgard was also hired as the college’s Residence Hall Director and will help the athletic department in other capacities. He spoke with the Press & Dakotan on Monday about returning to basketball and his desire to help the Lancers (winners of six games over the past two seasons) progress.
What have you been up to since leaving Lincoln?
I left coaching so I could be around my kid and watch him play a little bit. Now he’s in college at the University of Minnesota, so my wife said I needed to get a job.
How did the Mount Marty College position come up?
I wanted to get back into coaching once everyone was off doing their own thing, and this all fell into place at the right time. Obviously I like Yankton, and having a chance to visit with Coach Baker, it seems like we have a lot of similar beliefs. I think it’s going to be a great fit.
So you’re pretty familiar with Yankton?
When I used to scout at the (Yankton) high school, I used to stop in and see coach (Jim) Thorson’s practices.
Today (Monday) is the first day of classes at Mount Marty. Does that mean you’ve been running around like crazy?
It’s been the busiest time of my other part of the job, getting everyone in their dorms and getting their keys. We got that done as of (Sunday), now they’re off and running going to classes.
With the Residence Hall Director position, did that happen first? Or how did that come up?
I think they wanted it to be together. I had nowhere to live down there, so it worked out well. I’ll be trying to come back to Sioux Falls when I can to spend time with my wife, but I’ll be down there as much as I can. Once we get started (with basketball), it’s getting everyone going. We’ve got a great group of freshmen coming in, so there will be plenty of new stuff to do.
Did you want to get into the college game?
I always had that little interest in the back of my mind that I wanted to give college a try and see what that was all like. Luckily this opportunity came up. I’m looking forward to giving basketball my full attention again.
And I’m sure your recruiting ties can’t hurt either, right?
(laughs) I still do know some coaches out there that are doing some stuff. Traveling with the Schoolers when my son played for a couple years, those were some great relationships you develop. It was a lot of fun, but it was every other weekend going somewhere.
How familiar are you with the Great Plains Athletic Conference?
Just because of Mount Marty and Dakota Wesleyan and Northwestern, and when USF (University of Sioux Falls) was in it, I guess I’m sort of familiar. Some of the other colleges I’ve never been to, so that will be fun to experience. We’ll just try to do the best we can do.
What is your impression of Andrew Baker so far?
I think he’s great with the kids, and he’s a hard-working guy. He’s willing to put in the time, and I think together, just because of what he believes in and his philosophy and my experience, it’ll be a great combination.
Will it be a little strange working with a young head coach?
(laughs) One of the other kids, a senior, made a comment the other day that he’s now the old one here now. And I thought, ‘You two together aren’t even my age.’ But it’s good for me to be around the young guys again; I really missed that the last five years. I’m just glad to be part of that again.
How can the Mount Marty men’s hoops program grow?
Obviously, the thing is keep getting the great kids to take the program where we need it to go. I’ve enjoyed getting to meet all the guys, and I think we’ve got great character kids with great leadership roles, now we just need to bring in some basketball players and keep improving every year. Recruiting is the key. We have to get in them there and show them what we have and what we’re building toward.