This year Bruin Nation is welcoming Burton Uwarow as its new men’s basketball coach.
Uwarow succeeds Athletic Director Neal Ring as head coach.
With the expansion of the intercollegiate athletic program, Ring’s position as athletic director needed to become full time, requiring the addition of Uwarow.
Burton Uwarow said he started playing basketball when he was about 5 years old.
“I grew up on the Illinois/Indiana border where basketball was a huge thing,” Uwarow said. “So, I probably had a 20- or 30-game schedule from elementary school all the way through high school.”
As a student at BJU, Uwarow advanced his basketball career through playing basketball for his society.
Uwarow first began his coaching career during his freshman year of college by coaching an intramural basketball team at the Bob Jones Academy.
Next, Uwarow landed a coaching job at Mauldin Middle School in Greenville County before moving to fill a coaching job in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Later, Uwarow returned to Mauldin to coach the high school team.
He then spent seven years coaching in Atlanta before eventually returning to Greenville.
Ring said he centered his search for his replacement as coach on finding someone who was prepared to take the men’s team to another level.
“In Coach U, I found someone who had the same ministry passion as me, but also would become a much better coach than I could ever be,” Ring said. “I found that his peers praise him and his players love him.
“Coach Uwarow and his wife Laura had a track record of using basketball to impact young men for Christ,” Ring said. “He had been able to build a culture of excellence, accountability and success both on and off the court at each coaching stop along the way.”
Uwarow said his new ministry to college students will differ in some aspects from his past ministry to high schoolers.
“In high school, the boys don’t really have an idea of what they want to be yet or where they want to go, so I’m only able to minister to them in a general way,” Uwarow said.
“Mentoring and discipling college guys, however, they theoretically are more decided on what they want to do with their life,” Uwarow said.
“I can give them specific advice and be a little more specialized in how I help them reach their goals.”
Uwarow said he believes in teaching the team habits and skills, rather than just teaching set plays.
“I like to teach players how to play,” he said. “Basketball is a game of habits. Unlike football or baseball, basketball is a continuous game and the coach doesn’t have a lot of influence during the game.”
“I like to do all of my work in the practices and put all my focus there. When it comes to game time, it’s like the players’ final exam for how well they’ve listened and how well I’ve taught.”
Uwarow said while the team will have some set plays, he doesn’t want to become a predictable team.
“When it comes to the regional and national tournaments, there’s so much scouting and video that everybody knows what we’re doing if all we did was set plays,” he said.
“If I have skilled players and the game is close, I think we’re going to be the team that wins.”
Uwarow plans to teach the little skills that build up to a big finale.
He said he believes that each player should know the same skills although the time and place players use those skills will differ.
“I like to specialize my practices with the things that occur most often in a game,” he said.
Uwarow first met the team last year during final exam week, so he wasn’t able to get to know the team well.
Uwarow first practiced with his whole team the last week of September.
Prior to this practice, the team had participated in multiple workout sessions and classroom “boot camps” but no official practices.
“Although the transition to [being] coach started off tough because I didn’t really know what I had, I’ve enjoyed the past month I’ve had to be with the team,” Uwarow said.
Robert Horn, a senior, has played for the Bruins since his freshman year.
“Initially the transition was tough,” Horn said. “But as time goes on, this transition has been one of the best transitions I’ve ever experienced or seen.”
Justin Matthews, another senior, said he enjoys Uwarow as his coach.
“He does a good job with keeping us level-headed, bringing us together and establishing his culture early in the season,” he said.
Going into the season, Uwarow said he did not want to set specific win/loss goals.
“I think injuries…all sorts of things can play into win/loss numbers,” Uwarow said. “I think you can have a successful season without setting a win/loss goal.”
In preseason, Uwarow had the team create commitment statements for themselves.
Uwarow said while goals focus only on the future, commitments focus on players’ present actions.
According to Uwarow, a successful season would be seeing the team stick to their commitment statements.
“I really want the team to be stronger spiritually, stronger academically and stronger basketball players by the end of the school year,” Uwarow said.
Ring said he is confident that the team will reach even greater hights under Uwarow’s leadership.
“As he establishes his culture, and it will take some time, I believe his program will demonstrate how to be a winner on and off the court,” Ring said.