FLOWERY BRANCH – Jay Burney isn’t exactly stepping into uncharted waters.
The new Flowery Branch boys basketball coach has several ties to the state of Georgia. Although he’s never coached a Georgia high school basketball team, he has plenty of connections in the Peach State. He played college basketball at Shorter University in Rome, he has several friends in the area and his niece lives in Flowery Branch.
It’s only part of the reason the Flowery Branch opening piqued his interest, and, the fact he can retire from Alabama and continue his career in Georgia.
“Just love the area,” he said. “I still have a lot of friends in the area. I’ve had a lot of time over that way and talking to people. We vacation a lot up there. We’re over in Atlanta a lot playing AAU basketball with my sons. It’s a great place. It’s just a place that I felt comfortable with. I have two sons that play basketball and it was a place where I felt comfortable with them going to school — that they could have a good time and enjoy it. I just think it’s a great part of Georgia.”
Flowery Branch High School Athletics Director Jimmy Lawler announced Tuesday afternoon that the 20-year Alabama coaching veteran will take the reins of the Falcon basketball program. The Hall County Board of Education will approve Lawler’s recommendation later this month.
Lawler said he received a lot of resumes from head coaches and assistants, but Burney’s personality just seemed to fit.
“He’s very easy to talk to,” Lawler said. “He’s very professional, yet he’s somebody you can sit down and have a conversation with about any sport or about any topic and he’s going to be very comfortable with that. He fit with what we were looking for and that being not just a good basketball resume, but a personality that goes with the culture that we have at Flowery Branch.”
Burney comes to the Branch from Boaz High School in Alabama where his team finished the 2019 season 18-12 and area regular season champions. He’s also won eight area championships, led his teams to the playoffs 11 times and finished state runner-up twice.
“I have a lot experience,” Burney said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have some really successful teams. It’s a situation where I’m going to work hard. I’m going to represent our community the right way. Our team is going to represent our school and community the right way. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put a product on the floor that people will want to come to watch, support and be proud of.”
So what can you expect from a Burney–coached team?
He says his style is a motion-type offense that gets after their opponent on defense.
“I think the biggest thing is, we’re going to play hard," Burney said. "I want to get up and down – depending on personnel and league, of course. Sometimes you have a way you want to play, but at this level, you don’t get to recruit your kids, so you have to adjust from year-to-year. I want the kids to have fun, be energetic, to play hard, to play unselfishly. We want to put a good brand of basketball out there for the community.”
Burney will have challenges along the way. The Falcons finished the 2018-19 season with just one win (1-24). He'll also be tasked with developing a program.
Lawler says that starts at the middle school level and believes Burney can make it happen.
“We’ve got to develop a program,” Lawler said. “We’ve got to start at the middle school and build that and get those guys excited about playing at Flowery Branch High School. The 2017-18 team was a senior group that had been playing together for several years and had success as a senior class. It didn’t leave us with very many experienced players returning this year and that showed early on. We never had an opportunity to get better. We were trying to find the right mix — get people floor time. I’ll say this for Coach (Chezley) Watson, he did a very good job in the one year that he was there trying to develop the skill play of all the guys. We’re hoping to get these same football players back out to play again with another year of basketball training under their belt and just develop a program from the middle school up. We want to have all these guys excited about playing for Coach Burney."
Burney says there's not much difference between Alabama and Georgia basketball, but he also knows there'll be an adjustment period.
“Basketball is basketball,” he said. “Alabama-Georgia. We actually ended up playing five games in Georgia this year. So it’s going to be really similar. Now, I don’t know the league as well as the one I came from, but, basketball is basketball. As long as you have kids that are hungry to learn and want to work at it to get better, I think we’ll be fine in that sense."
Burney will officially be on staff after he fulfills his responsibilities at Boaz sometime in May.
“Right now, we're trying to get a summer schedule together," he said. "We’re just trying to get everything taken care of. Coach Lawler been great — he and Dr. (Jason) Carter have been outstanding."