‘The winning tradition’ - David Burke has enjoyed the ride at Freeport High

Finishing a 20-year career as basketball coach at Freeport High, David Burke says, "I've accomplished everything here that I set out to do. I've had a good career. I've met a lot of good people. I have no regrets."

David Burke has called his last play as the head boy’s basketball coach at Freeport High School.

Burke, 63, who played on the Freeport Bulldogs only state championship team in 1968, is retiring after 20 years of coaching boy’s basketball at Freeport High. He spent the last 15 as head coach finishing with a record of 228-192.

"I'm mostly proud of what I have accomplished here at Freeport," Burke said while sitting in his office. "I've brought the tradition back to Freeport, the winning tradition. We've won several district championships and sportsmanship awards."

The Bulldogs finished as district champions in 2006, 2007 and finished as runners-up in 2001, 2009 and 2011. The team also helped to lock down the Florida High School Athletic Association State Sportsmanship Award in 2003, 2003, 2006 and 2011.

In addition to winning on the court, the Bulldogs won in the classroom as well, winning the State Academic Team Championships in 2007, 2008 and 2012.

"He always made sure we had the grades," said Jamey Goddin, a former player on that 2006 and 2007 team. "He cared about more than just basketball."

Goddin said they probably didn't have the biggest or most talented team, but Burke "always knew how to get the most out of us."

And winning those back-to-back districts in 2006 and 2007 "were the best of times," he said.

But his biggest takeaway from Burke?

"I learned to have fun playing the game," Goddin said.

Goddin is just one of many that Burke has coached over the years.

"I've had a lot of good kids come through here," Burke said, calling off just a few players from over the years such as Goddin, Brandon Sebastian, Austin Woodard and Collin Myrick.

Some of his past players are still playing in the city basketball leagues in Destin.

"They'll get old one day and their knees will go and they'll quit … like me," Burke said with a chuckle.

Burke left his mark on Freeport basketball, not only as a coach, but as a former player. He is the leading scorer and rebounder in Freeport boy's basketball history. Burke led the Bulldogs to a 30-2 record and the school’s only basketball state championship in 1968. He scored 883 points in the 32-game season of 1968 while averaging 27.6 points. Burke scored 39 points in the state semi-final game and 34 in the championship game.

From Freeport he went on to play at Gulf Coast Community College, now Gulf Coast State College, in Panama City. He played two years for Coach Jack Jackson where the Commodores went 24-7 and 30-3. Burke still holds the record at Gulf Coast for the most free throws made in a career (284) and the most free throws attempted in a season (247).

After graduating, his life would bring him back to his alma mater.

"Never in my wildest dream did I figure I'd be a basketball coach here at Freeport," Burke said.

And the rest is, as they say, history.

"I've enjoyed the ride; we've had a very successful program here at Freeport," Burke said. "I've enjoyed going new places and meeting new people. I've got friends everywhere I go, that I didn't know I had until I started coaching basketball.”

And his retirement has nothing to do with wins and losses.

"Me and the wife have been planning on it for a couple of years," he said. "It's time for me to enjoy life a little bit," Burke said.

His plans include fishing with his son aboard his charter boat Reel Contender that docks at Legendary Marine off Thomas Drive on Panama City Beach, and spending time with his three grandchildren.

"I'm going to enjoy life as it should be, with no work involved in it," he said.