Burley Allen: Nurturing coach, relentless basketball recruiter
Plaques and trophies adorn the hallways, a television is on mute while ESPN’s First Take is airing and the owner of the house proudly reminisces about her illustrious basketball coaching career. Retired for several years now, former Greenville High School Honeybees head coach Burley Carson Allen amassed an impressive winning percentage, sent players to college and to the WNBA and come within a game of brining Greenville its first state championship of any kind in two decades.
But, she takes none of the credit for herself because of the people who helped her become successful along the way.
“I graduated from Coleman High in 1967,” Allen recalled. “Back then, basketball was played where the defensive team would play on one end of the court and offense would play on the other in a three on three format. The game changed to the five on five style where players played both offense and defense about two years into my playing days. I was the center on my team when I was in highschool.”
Coaching came natural for Allen because not only was she a player, but also a student of the game. She said that she loved basketball so much that she would “eat, sleep and drink” the game. Allen’s coaching style was that of a nurturer and foster mother. There were times over the years when players needed her not only to teach them about X’s and O’s but about dealing with unfortunate situations, maturing as young ladies and focusing on long term goals. “Between the games and practices and during the off season, i would always check on my players,” Allen said. “I would make sure that they were making it home safely in the evenings, making sure that they were doing well in their classroom work and just being there just in case they needed someone to talk to. Children still need adults in their lives that provide support especially when they are having troubles in the home.”
Allen’s calm demeanor and easy-going ways prompted her former principal Andrew Hardmon to compare the coach to former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson back during the 1998-1999 season. Even as chilled as Allen might have been, she didn’t amass an astounding 360-65 record in her career by being meek and mild when it came to finding top-notch players. Latoya Thomas, Glenda Grant, Shenera Young, Erica Williams, Keona Williams, Satonya Diggins, Kwanda Green, Tonya Gibson, Tiara Lewis and Breanna Lewis head up a list of tremendous talent that all coached over the years. “I would walk the halls and look for players all the time whether they had ever touched a basketball or not,” she laughed. “I would call their parents and insist that they at least give it a try. I’m really proud that a lot of my players have gone on to do well in life whether that’s making the WNBA like Latoya Thomas or becoming a nurse practitioner like Shanta Hunt.”
Washington County Youth Court Judge Vernita King Johnson observed how much of a positive influence that Allen had upon her players for so many years and decided to offer the coach an officer position at the Washington County Detention Center. She worked with children in this capacity for more than a decade before retiring. A little less than a year ago, Allen’s husband of 40 year, Otis, passed away and she continues to have the support of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends and her Calvary Presbyterian Church family. Having recently taken a cruise, always following her beloved Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry on TV and a regular participant in water aerobics at Extreme Fitness, Allen lives life to the fullest and hasn’t ruled out coaching again in some capacity. “I really want to help develop some of the young players and help some of the coaches who are still early in their coaching careers,” she said. “I don’t want to go take over a team, just to provide some advice.”