Burt enters first year with high expectations

Andy Hornak | The Duquesne Duke

Aaron Warnick | Photo Editor
Aaron Warnick | Photo Editor

Dan Burt is entering his first year as head coach of the Duquesne’s women’s basketball team in charge of a talented team focused on one goal: the NCAA Tournament. He was hired in April after spending six years as the top assistant under Suzie McConnell-Serio, who unexpectedly accepted the head coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh on April 12.

During the coaching transition, the team was in limbo as Burt’s promotion was finalized. A program without a coach is never a good thing, but the team said they came closer together after McConnell-Serio’s abrupt departure.

Burt grew up in Washington, Pa. and coached as an assistant at West Virginia University, UNC Wilmington and Bucknell University before joining the Duquesne staff as an assistant in 2007. During his time on the Bluff, Burt has built a strong relationship with his players, including forwards Wumi Agunbiade and Orsi Szecsi, who earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and A-10 All-Rookie Team honors in 2011, respectively.

Throughout his career, Burt has been a highly successful recruiter. At Bucknell, Burt helped assemble the team that won the 2006-07 Patriot League regular-season title and appeared in the NIT. His 2006 recruiting class was rated 38th in the nation by Blue Star Basketball, a bi-annual newsletter that scouts high school recruits and college signees.

Since being named head coach, Burt said the dynamic of the relationship with the team has changed.

“I recruited all of them, they made it known that they wanted me to be the head coach,” Burt said. “I’m still the father, uncle, or counselor to some of them, but it’s like drinking water out of a fire hose. Right now, I have so many other responsibilities that I have to prioritize them.”

Through the transition, Burt’s players have embraced his new responsibilities and goals for the season. He said he’s been especially tough on Agunbiade, a player he believes has the chance to have her number retired and more notably WNBA potential in next year’s draft.

“I’ve given them a hard time, especially Wumi,” he said. “If a freshman makes a mistake, it’s Wumi’s fault. And I scream at Wumi all practice long.”

In her senior season, Agunbiade has had no issues with the change in leadership.

“He’s been here for a number of years. We have faith in our coach going into the season,” she said.

The smooth transition is more evident in the mentality of the locker room on the eve of the start of the season and the urge to face a new opponent.

“We’re tired of playing ourselves, but in terms of a mental standpoint, I think we’re in great shape with a really common goal,” Burt said.

Even with the senior leadership of Agunbiade and Szecsi, the team’s schedule, full of marquee games including the City Game against former head coach and McConnell-Serio and the Pitt Panthers Dec. 29.

“I have to make sure we stay one game at a time,” Burt said.

With the season opener on Nov. 8 at the Maggie Dixon Classic in Chicago, Burt will look to keep his team as explosive as it was last season, when the Dukes finished second in the nation in steals.