High School Football

Waccamaw football coach Bourne retires

The 1979 and 1993 state championships will serve as a lasting reminder of Burney Bourne's coaching prowess.

But the miracles he worked at Waccamaw over the last six seasons may be an even greater achievement. Bourne took over the moribund program in 2004, led the Warriors to their first playoff berth in a decade in 2007 and then won seven games and advanced to the postseason for a third straight year in 2009.

Perhaps deciding there was no greater way to punctuate a Hall of Fame career, Bourne has resigned his post and told Waccamaw officials that he'll retire after this school year. He spent 31 seasons as a head coach at Cheraw, Socastee and Waccamaw.

"It was about 100 things," Bourne said. "When you put them all together, it's time. I've gone back and forth since the end of the season. I've quit 50 times and decided I'd go another year 50 times.

"This is a 12-month job now, and things I used to enjoy are becoming more of a job. If all you had to do was coach three or four months, it would be different. But it's 12 months a year, and it's time for me to get out of it."

It was tough news to take at Waccamaw.

"We certainly don't want to see him go," assistant Robert Burdette said. "He's a great leader for us and a great teacher, not only for the kids but also for the coaches. At the same time, we're happy for him. We know if he's decided this, he's thought it through and it's the right thing to do."

Burdette has been with Bourne since he took over six seasons ago, kick-starting one of the greatest reclamation projects in state history. The Warriors went 1-39 from 2000-03, but Bourne, who served as a Waccamaw assistant in 2003, apprehensively took the reins from head coach James Brown.

Slowly generating interest and building the program from the ground up, the Warriors emerged as a viable program again in 2007 after going 4-26 in Bourne's first three campaigns. Waccamaw finished 5-6 in 2007 and 2008, advancing to the playoffs in each campaign.

Last fall, the Warriors had a winning record for the first time since 1998, finishing 7-4. Fittingly, Bourne's last game was a first-round playoff loss at Cheraw.

"What he has done here is not something that just anybody could have done," Burdette said. "We were right on the edge of not having football, and he's built it to where we have a lot of kids participating. We've gained a lot of respect. We're no longer an easy win or everybody's homecoming anymore. That's because of what he's done.

"I didn't think [a winning record] would ever happen. ... We haven't gotten to the level of the highest-echelon teams and maybe we never will, but what we've done is all because of him and the way he works with us. He coaches us just like he coaches the kids."

Bourne's career started in 1978 at Cheraw, where the 26-year-old quickly developed a reputation as a hard-nosed coach in the mold of legends like Bear Bryant or Danny Ford.

In just his second year, a team that featured current Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett at quarterback won the Class AAA state championship over Strom Thurmond. Bourne's program was reborn in the early 1990s, losing in the 1992 state title game before beating Clinton for Cheraw's second state title a year later.

"He demanded your best," Bennett said. "What he was really good at was working you hard, but he'd put his arm around you. Now he didn't do it too often. He'd do it when you felt like you were at the point of breaking.

"The best thing he did was turn boys into men. He'd get up in your face. I watched him grab many a facemask, but he helped turn a lot of boys into men and good fathers and good husbands. I hate to see him get out of it."

Bourne spent 22 seasons at Cheraw, compiling a 181-80 record before leaving for Socastee in 2000. Johnny White, a junior varsity coach under Bourne, took over the Cheraw program and played for four state championships between 2004 and 2007, winning two of them.

White gives Bourne credit for laying the program's foundation.

"He established the program at Cheraw," White said. "He paid attention to detail and did a good job of teaching the fundamentals. He just never left any stone unturned.

"He put Cheraw football on the map."

Bourne tried to do the same thing at Socastee, but he realized after three seasons that the program was in over its head against the Class AAAA schools it was aligned with. After going 7-26, he moved to Waccamaw as an assistant for one season under Brown, who resigned following the 2003 campaign.

Waccamaw had considered playing with just a junior varsity squad in 2004 or dropping the program altogether, but Bourne convinced school officials that it wasn't a hopeless cause.

"It was a challenge," Bourne said. "It was a huge challenge. They gave me an opportunity. I was at a crossroads in my career and my life. Seven years ago I didn't know if I was going to stay in education and coaching or get out of it. All of a sudden the opportunity presented itself. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. This is a great community and a great bunch of people. I've loved every minute of it."

And so have the people that have been around him.

"He just has an ability to handle people from the players up to the coaches down to the managers and the trainers," Burdette said. "He's just a natural leader. I could never imagine him being an assistant coach. If you talk to coach Bourne, you just realize he's a coach. He's a natural leader. He could be a CEO somewhere, because he knows how to handle people."

And he also knows how to win. Bourne finished with a career record of 209-148.

He was inducted into the S.C. Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008.

"I would have to say," White said, "he's one of the premier coaches in the history of South Carolina football."

To view Hoke's CCU sports blog, "The Roost," go to TheSunNews.com.