UPDATED APRIL 11, 2017
When Fran Burbidge announced to his Bishop Shanahan girls basketball team Monday that he was resigning as head coach, it was an emotional moment for the coaching veteran.
“It was really, really tough telling the team that I was leaving, it got emotional when I told the [players],” said Burbidge, who is stepping down due to an expanded role in his current work with the prestigious Blue Star Basketball program and U.S. Junior Nationals (USJN), one of the longest-running organizations in girls’ basketball, and the Philadelphia Belles Nike program.
Burbidge, who coached Elena Delle Donne at Delaware’s Ursuline Academy, will perform, among other tasks, player evaluations at tournaments, and assist in running the Blue Star basketball tourneys.
“[Resigning at Shanahan] wasn’t a rash decision or something I took lightly,” said Burbidge. “I have a great opportunity to be involved with Blue Star, USJN and Philadelphia Belles on more of a full-time basis. I’ll still be around the game, and I’ll still be around the kids. I just felt there would be a conflict between coaching in high school and giving 100 percent of my effort [to Blue Star, USJN and Philadelphia Belles].
“I absolutely cannot say enough about the Bishop Shanahan community, the administration, and especially the students. I’ve enjoyed every moment here and it is with a heavy heart that I am leaving.”
Burbidge, whose resignation became effective Tuesday, has been the Shanahan girls’ basketball head coach for the past four seasons, leading the team to three consecutive Ches-Mont championships in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and appearances in two state championship tournaments.
The past season was particularly memorable for Burbidge and Shanahan, as the Eagles came back from a slow start to win their third consecutive Ches-Mont championship, finish third in districts and advance to the second round of states (where they nearly knocked off eventual state champion Archbishop Wood). Burbidge was named the 2016-17 Daily Local News All-Area Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
But despite all these honors from the 2016-17 campaign, when Burbidge reflected Tuesday on what the Shanahan girls basketball program meant to him, he mentioned the 2013-14 Eagles squad — the one team of his that didn’t win the Ches-Mont title.
“That first group laid the foundation for what was to come,” said Burbidge. “They accepted a new coach with open arms, and they set the tone [for success] with the way that they worked every day. I told that group that they were the foundation of this program, and they made it to the Final Four at Ches-Monts and qualified for States that year.”
Many of Burbidge’s former players have come back during the Christmas holidays, to drop in on a Shanahan practice to visit with their former team and coach.
Shanahan senior co-captain and Daily Local News All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Courtney Warley, said, “We are all very thankful for everything Coach Fran has taught us. Our past seasons would not have been the same without him. We wish nothing but the best for Coach Fran in all his future endeavors. We will always be thankful for what he has done for this program.”
Eagles senior co-captain Jen Sendi added, “On behalf of the entire Bishop Shanahan girls’ basketball team, we are very thankful for everything Coach Fran has done these past four years. He has turned this program around tremendously. We all wish him the best of luck.”
A week ago, upon learning that he was named Daily Local News Coach of the Year, Burbidge made a point of praising his assistant coaches and the Shanahan community.
“I want to emphasize this — without [assistant coaches] Katie Holzer Taraborelli and Pat Lyons, none of [our success] over the past four seasons would be possible,” said Burbidge upon hearing of his Daily Local News coaching award. “They’ve done a great job, a fantastic job. And the Shanahan community is a great community, the support from the Sisters [at the school] has been fantastic.”
The 1971 Cardinal O’Hara High School grad has a wide range of coaching experience. Not only did he coach Delle Donne at Ursuline, but he also coached Breanna Stewart with the AAU Philadelphia Belles. Burbidge served as an assistant coach to Bobbi Morgan for the Cabrini University women’s basketball team before taking the Ursuline Academy head coaching job.