Wilson’s new head football coach Bob Burt may be the wake-up call the Wildcats need

“It was a challenge, and I’ve never backed away from a challenge.” -- Wilson’s new head football coach Bob Burt.

By Aram Tolegian
Even at age 70, Bob Burt has no trouble finding the motivation to drive every day from his home in Hemet to his football program in Hacienda Heights. Burt, the new football coach at Wilson High School, has a real simple explanation for why he does it.
“It was a challenge,” he said. “And I’ve never backed away from a challenge.”
Burt has seen and conquered plenty of challenges in a career that’s ranged from being the defensive coordinator at Hawaii to head coach at Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge to head coach of fledgling and established high school programs. And now he’s in for arguably one of the bigger challenges of his career.

Wilson’s football troubles are no secret to area fans. They’re an ongoing drama that’s been played out for all to see on this newspaper’s prep sports blogs. The fiasco has run the gamut from the district hiring private investigators to track coaches, to poor performance on the field.

The past two coaches at Wilson Greg Hoyd and Brian Zavala, have lasted just three seasons combined. Hoyd was gone after one year and a 1-9 record. Zavala left after two seasons and a 4-16 record.

Both coaches endured ridicule and rumors that ranged from allegations of inappropriate conduct, poor sportsmanship to theft of booster club funds to illegal recruiting.

As Wilson enters the Burt era, though, the veteran coach is making no guarantees about anything, not even how long he’ll be at the school. Nor will he venture to guess how many games his team is capable of winning. About the only thing Burt is saying is that his team will be disciplined.

Discipline, however, might just be what Wilson needs in order to turn the corner. The Wildcats have talent. Receiver J.R. Nelson is one of the top targets in the area and has the potential to someday be playing on Saturdays. Running back Keith Hawk has turned heads in practice and quarterback Josh Morales earned plenty of experience last season. The question is whether Burt can turn it all into one cohesive unit.

“It’s easier to take a job where they’ve had a lot of success and somebody stops coaching and you just have to keep it going,” Burt said. “When you take over a program that’s been struggling, there’s the challenge of saying, ‘OK, let’s see what we can do with this.’ “It’s a lot more challenging and rewarding to see young people mature and change and become competitive. These kids are really good, young people and they’re crying out for some success.”

Burt stepped down at Notre Dame in Riverside on Dec. 13, 2010. At the time, he was convinced he’d coached his last game. Upon having his mind changed and taking the Wilson job, he immediately set forth his plan to bring some stability back to Wilson’s program.

The plan? Basically, it’s what Burt says goes. Burt has no offensive or defensive coordinator. He’ll call the shots on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Burt estimated the Wildcats will be 60-40 run on offense and a 4-4 defense that will attack at opportune times.

The Wildcats have only about 55 players between the varsity and junior varsity levels. Burt estimated the varsity number to be just 27 but said several JV players will be suiting up Friday nights.

So far, there’s no way to tell whether the Wildcats will build on last year’s 4-6 record, but Burt said if work ethic and effort are any indicators, his team will be ready to give a much better account of itself in the Valle Vista League.

The Wildcats, however, aren’t thinking that far ahead. Burt has them on the weekly plan, and right now the focus is on Week Zero opponent Bosco Tech.

“Obviously, the goal is we want to be competitive,” Burt said. “We’d like to have a winning season and try to compete for the league championship. Our first goal is to try and win the first game. We worry about what we control right now.”

With just four assistant coaches, only one of them an on-campus teacher, Burt has his work cut out for him. Early success quickly would drive away the dark cloud that’s been hovering over the Wilson program for the past three years.

All of it is a major challenge, but it’s one that Burt welcomes, and so do his players. After that, as Burt would have it, there are no guarantees.

“At 70, you never know how long the long haul is,” Burt said with a laugh.” But I’m going to give it every ounce of energy I have. We’re working hard and we couldn’t be happier with these kids.”

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  • Colt74

    I wish Coach Burt and the Wildcats the best this season. It sounds like they are a perfect mesh together.
    Did I see Nelson at running back?????????

  • Aaron

    Bobby Petrino called all the signals when he was at Louisville.

  • WHS

    I believe Fred assumed a few things and didn’t ask. Yes, Nelson is the RB and Hawk is a WR. George Czarnack has been moved from TE to WR, best hands on the team and is the number 1 WR. Serra has taken over the TE position. They have Kevin Garcia at the FB position. This team is very limited on the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side of the ball is where this team is going to shine.

  • FredJ

    We can also assume you didn’t read the byline on this story: By Aram Tolegian.

  • WHS

    Sorry about that Fred, I actually read the top below the title that did say By Fred Robledo.

  • Colt74

    Holy Crap! I scooped Aram! LOL.
    Been trying to get around to all VVL teams in the last week. 2 more to go. Was REALLY impressed with the energy and the enthusiasm I witnessed coming from the WILSON practice. Looking good guys!

  • LA Fan

    Congratulations Wilson! Coach sounds like a great fit and most important…The MS cancer is gone for good! Good luck during your season!

  • Hacienda Parent

    I applaud coach Burt and the Wildcats for having the courage and toughness to keep plowing away. I wish you guys the best.

    Let’s not expect a lot this year, but rather appreciate the determination the boys and coaches are showing. That is what sports is all about.

    I predict we go 6-4 and celebrate progress and the future…….

  • hhscout

    160# rb with basketball build + 170# undeveloped jr build fb = 0 inside run game. Defenses will be running lots of 3-4 with speedy de’s to contain the outside. Nobody in Wilson’s backfield, including qb, will take a hit. Extremely soft.

  • SaintsR4real

    hhscout,

    Here we go again, another hater!!

    Your facts may be correct, but who are you comparing to?? Soft to who, your Uncle Rico or your Tia Concha??

    Try making a weakness into an opportunity. It might help with your audience.

  • 140 miles each day? (age 70)

    Even at age 70, Bob Burt has no trouble finding the motivation to drive every day from his home in Hemet to his football program in Hacienda Heights.

    That is a 70 Mile Trip (one way)

  • 140 miles each day? (age 70)

    Even at age 70, Bob Burt has no trouble finding the motivation to drive every day from his home in Hemet to his football program in Hacienda Heights.

    That is a 70 Mile Trip (one way)

  • 140 miles each day? (age 70)

    Even at age 70, Bob Burt has no trouble finding the motivation to drive every day from his home in Hemet to his football program in Hacienda Heights.

    That is a 70 Mile Trip (one way)

  • Never too old?

    “Burt stepped down at Notre Dame in Riverside on Dec. 13, 2010. At the time, he was convinced he’d coached his last game. Upon having his mind changed and taking the Wilson job, he immediately set forth his plan to bring some stability back to Wilson’s program.”

    FYI – His wife changed his mind about coaching. After a month, or two of him being around the house after his “retirement”, the little woman “suggested he get out”, so the search for a new coaching gig began. Apparently, a connection of his in the HLPUSD tried to set him up with LA (after the Arrelanas firing), but they weren’t interested. Next stop, Wilson.

  • Wilson

    Never too old?,

    Thats some funny sh*t, you forgot to mention that LA didn’t know who he was and refused to even talk to him. They had their mind set on their current head coach, you know the one that has one year of varsity experience as a RUNNING BACK coach. You wounder why LA went 0-10 last season. What is even funner about this situation is LA actually may have more talent than Wilson this year, now watch what happens week 1.

    LA will get blown out again.

  • Anon

    There is no fool like an old fool.

  • Willy the Wildcat

    Why are we talking about LA on a Wilson thread? We get so few things posted on here that are positive about our program and then when we do, we go and turn it into a typical “who’s crappier? Wilson or LA” thread.

    Come on guys…let’s just keep it to our boys!