An Interview With Scott Burrell

Hamden native Scott Burrell returns home to Quinnipiac

Hamden native Scott Burrell returns home to Quinnipiac

Earlier this offseason, I had the opportunity to talk to UConn great, and Quinnipiac Assistant Coach, Scott Burrell. Also a phenomenal baseball player, Burrell turned down a contract from the Seattle Mariners to attend UConn. He played for the Huskies from 1989-1993 and is the university’s all-time leader in steals and steals-per-game. Burrell was the first player in the history of college basketball to amass at least 1,500 points, 750 rebounds, 275 assists and 300 steals over his career.

Here are some highlights:

A Dime Back: You’ve said in the past that Howie Dickenman {former UConn Asst. Coach, now Head Coach of Central Connecticut State University} was key in your commitment to UConn. How did he convince you?

Scott Burrell: He was so determined to get me. He worked his butt off. He called my family at every opportunity. He was at my games. He promoted the school well, and he was the utmost competitor. I was thinking about other schools but he kept battling and helped change my mind.

ADB: How close were you to going to Miami?

Burrell: I was pretty close – I was going to go play baseball down there.

ADB: And the Mariners?

Burrell: Pretty close. We negotiated a contract, but they wanted me not to go to college and that was a big part of why I didn’t end up going to Seattle.

ADB: College always seemed important to you. After getting drafted, you went back and finished your degree at UConn.

Burrell: Ya, I did. It was very important and that was the main reason that I went back.

ADB: How do you use the experience of your own recruitment when you’re out on the recruiting trail now?

Burrell: When you find the kid you like, you put all of your effort into it. You have to try your best to get that kid. You’re in the gym; you’re calling him, sending him mail. You’re doing everything legally to try to get that kid.

ADB: How do you sell Quinnipiac to these recruits?

Burrell: First, our school is a great school – a great academic place. Secondly, we have a super arena. It’s top notch – we’ll put this arena up against anybody in the country, high-major, low-major, it doesn’t matter – the amenities are awesome. Our coaching staff. Coach (Tom) Moore, he’s a pro. Kids have aspirations of playing professionally – NBA, overseas – and Coach Moore knows just as many agents, just as many scouts, GMs, NBA coaches as any other high-major coach. I’m in the same boat. I know a lot of GMs, a lot of coaches, a lot of overseas scouts and coaches. We sell that to the kids too. All of our coaches have won wherever they’ve been. We all sell each other.

ADB: And you almost beat UConn this year

Burrell: We should’ve beat UConn {laughs}.

Note: On Nov. 12th, UConn met Quinnipiac in the US Virgin Islands during the Paradise Jam. Quinnipiac squandered a 10 point lead with five minutes left in the game. Shabazz Napier dominated the double-overtime period and UConn hit 39-45 free throws to seal a victory.

UConn vs. Quinnipiac | Thomas Layer, Hartford Courant

UConn vs. Quinnipiac | Thomas Layer, Hartford Courant

ADB: What was going through your mind on the sidelines when the game went into double-overtime?

Burrell: We got into some foul trouble. We couldn’t get stops and fouled a whole lot, sending them to the foul line. But we had our chances.

ADB: Is that the loss that really sticks out this season?

Burrell: That one sticks out because it might’ve changed our season’s momentum a little bit. But we still had a lot of games after that we should’ve won. We didn’t take care of business this year.

ADB: When you look back on your playing days – the Big East in the early 1990’s – how do you feel now that the conference is crumbling?

Burrell: You could see it crumbling when the new schools started coming in. Little by little it just took apart the old, traditional Big East, which had great rivalries and great passion no matter where you played. Back in the day when I was there, all the coaches were high-profile coaches. They had their own egos – but in a good way. And there were just great, great players in the conference back then. With these other schools, it’s watered down a little bit.  You don’t have the rivalries. It’s too big. Especially now that it’s fallen apart, it’s even more sad – with UConn getting left out.

ADB: Will the smaller, basketball-only, Catholic Big East recapture some of that spirit?

Burrell: I don’t think it will have the same feel. They don’t have Syracuse. They don’t have UConn. You don’t have those big time schools. Think about it, UConn has three national championships in the last 15 years. You take that out of the Big East and you lose a lot of history. It’s really sad.

ADB: You were on the UConn team that won the program’s first Big East championship.

Burrell: Yes, I was! It was awesome. We started off 0-2 in the Big East and just turned it around. We got hot and we got confident.  We knew defense was going to win games for us and we became one of the best defensive teams in the country.

ADB:  Is that your best memory of UConn?

Burrell: I think it is. The pass to Tate was second.

ADB: When the ball was in the air, did you think Tate was going to catch it?

Burrell: I knew he was going to catch it. I thought they were going to block {the shot}, but he got it off. From my angle, the trajectory was good. I knew it was good.

ADB: Does it make you mad that Tate gets all the credit when you threw a pass 90 feet that landed right in his hands?

Burrell: {Laughs} I don’t mind that at all! I was so happy he made it. It’s like in baseball; everybody digs the long ball. In basketball, everybody digs the scorer.

ADB: Did Jim Calhoun or Kevin Ollie ever offer you a spot on UConn’s coaching staff?

Burrell: Na, I’m very happy where I am. I never talked to them about that. But I’m so happy for Kevin. He had a great year this year.

ADB: What do you think made him so successful so fast?

Burrell: If you look at their talent level, it’s not as good as it has been in the past, but those guys played so hard for him. They bought into what he was selling them, and they were right at the top of the Big East for a team that was decimated by injuries. He did a great job.

ADB: Where do you see your coaching career taking you?

Burrell: I’m happy here but you never know. You have to take it year by year and do the best you can. It’s my hometown. I get to see my family everyday. That’s a great thing and it’s a great place to be – beautiful place, great administration, academics and athletics. The President is awesome. We have everything in place here to be great.

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