COLUMBIA — Columbia College coach Bob Burchard accepted a ball from Columbia College president Gerald Brouder commemorating the coach’s 500th win.
Cougar fans echoed Brouder’s sentiment with signs bearing Burchard’s name and his win total handed out to the crowd as time ticked away on the Cougars 71-54 win over Missouri Baptist Saturday. Although the scene was orchestrated to thank him for all he had done, according to Burchard, all the signs, the ball, and the sheet cake set out in preparation for a postgame celebration in the Bixby Room were honoring the wrong man.
“We give our guys those autographed balls on senior night, when everybody leaves the program,” Burchard said. “At the end of the year, they take that marker and put their record on their ball, and they take ownership over every one of those. So, every one of those has a guy’s name on it, not necessarily mine.”
Burchard had been tight-lipped on the issue all week, especially after the Cougars’ effort wasn’t enough in his first attempt at 500 Tuesday against McKendree. Burchard said the best part about winning was that he could finally put all the attention behind him, but for the players on the floor, Saturday’s game was one that served as a great indicator for where the team is now.
“It’s a big thing that we all did this together, considering the season we’ve had, and what we’ve had to get through to reach this point in the first place,” senior Mikel Fields said. “It was just nice to see that if you work hard, you can see good results, and that will hopefully push us through the (American Midwest Conference) tournament.”
For all the commotion of the night, and the attention being given to him and his career, Burchard couldn’t shed the credit for the accomplishment fast enough.
“If you talk to any coach in any sport, they’ll tell you, and I’ve said this for years, if you’re going to be highly successful, you better have better players than 90 percent of the people you play,” Burchard said. “The other five percent you try to outcoach, and then the other five percent, you try and get lucky. We’ve just been fortunate to have a lot of great players that were interested in coming to Columbia College.”
With the win, the Cougars advance to the semifinals of the AMC Tournament, and Fields said that even though much was made of the night, it’s important not to forget that both Burchard and his 2008 team aren’t done just yet.
“In his mind, it’s not a big mark for him, but more for all the players who have ever played for him,” Fields said. “It wasn’t really a personal thing for him, and I’m sure he’s not satisfied with just 500, he’s wanting to get more.”