Mike Burt: “Family Coach”
MADISON- Mike Burt is a player’s coach, especially for those players who just happen to be family.
Since joining the ranks of a volunteer coach among the youth basketball of Madison in 2004, Burt has established himself as a winning coach, a mentor to the youth of Madison, and, even more importantly, a leader among his immediate family. Since taking on the role as basketball coach he has led his sons, daughter, nieces and nephews through countless games.
In the just completed 2021-2022 season, as head coach of the 12-under Nets where he had two nephews on his roster, his squad lost in the semi-finals of the post-season tournament. As an assistant to head coach David Baker for the 14-under Nets, their squad won the championship trophy. The outcome came after one of Burt’s other nephews was on the team at the beginning of play, but chose not to participate throughout the season. Burt decided to remain with the team as his coaching desires took control so he could influence the other youths of Madison.
“I love to coach the fundamentals of the game and help the players learn the team concept to be able to play together and play hard as a unit while having fun,” said Burt.
For the 52-year old Burt, he retired in 2021 after 28 years with the City of Madison as both a member of the City Recreation and Fire Departments. He currently works at Wal-Mart in Madison. Last year also presented him with a personal hardship as his daughter gave birth to premature child who weighed just 1-pound, six-ounces. Burt’s tiny grandchild spent 92 days in ICU, but now is doing well and weighs in at 16 pounds. In all, he has three children from previous relationships and has been married for the past 15 years to the love of his life his wife Sabrina.
Growing up in a small three bedroom house on Cain Street, which is now among the shadows of Madison City Schools Stadium, the son of James Toney and Emma Jean Burt would hit the local parks to play basketball against any challenging foe. He did the same traveling to Huntsville to face stiff competition in some of the most well-known, talent-rich East Side gyms and would soon become the starting point guard for the Bob Jones Patriots under head coach Guy Bowling. While on the squad, Burt saw the Patriots rise to the No. 1 ranking in Alabama before graduating in 1988. He worked various jobs before joining the City of Madison for employment in 1993.
He continued to play recreational basketball as an adult even while suffering a torn ACL playing in a local church league and two years later suffering a broken nose in a local league game where Burt said, “I just happen to be in the wrong spot.”
While his son, Tray, was seven years of age Burt began his trek into coaching as he took on the responsibilities of heading up a team. Since he stepped into the coaching box his teams have four championships, many of which came about with family members alongside.
“It gives me great joy to see these kids become basketball savvy and emit emotion about their standard of play,” said Burt. “I had one young player who broke down in tears one year when we lost in the tournament. He loved the game that much. That’s the reason why I got into coaching as I could no longer play.”
His most recent team featured his two nephews, one of whom is the son of Burt’s younger brother, Jermaine, who passed away two years ago.
Two current famous football players have played a part in what Burt has been handling with the youth programs of Madison. Current NFL player Monty Rice, a former James Clemens All-State performer, played for Burt for two years. What’s interesting about that relationship is the fact they are related. Burt said of Rice, “I drafted him for my team and that’s how I found out we are cousins. We won the league championship in 2016 and I always thought Monty was a tremendous athlete who could have played school basketball, but chose instead to concentrate on his football talents.”
Burt’s team played against LaBryan Ray, another former James Clemens All-State player who just completed his redshirt senior season at Alabama and may be a part of the upcoming NFL Draft. Ray played for Lakers while Burt coached the Bulls. “We split our two games we played against one another,” said Burt of his memory of the talented Ray.
As for his own family, Burt doesn’t treat them with any special favors. He said, “I have to coach them the same as other players. I do take pride in the fact I’m the only uncle who teaches them basketball. My brother attends the games, but he does not coach. If it wasn’t for me they most likely wouldn’t be in sports.”
In recent years Burt has had family tragedies while coaching. He had a brother die in 2020, his father passed away in 2019 and had a nephew succumb to cancer in 2020, plus his granddaughter born at such a small size no one knew what the future would hold for the tiny family member. Somehow his faith has kept him afloat and he remains dedicated to coaching.
“I still love it as it gives me joy,” said Burt. “I had one nephew tell me he wanted to play on my team the next season and that felt good. I’ve been there as a kid. My parents allowed me to venture out and play basketball and that helped me grow into an adult. I hope my kids and nephews follow in my footsteps.”