Halftime at Saturday’s women’s basketball game between Goldey-Beacom College and Wilmington University, the Goldey-Beacom women’s coach walked by the Wilmington men’s coach standing against the wall. She didn’t give a look.
“I saw him,’’ Bethann Burke said later. “I knew he was here.”
Her focus was more on the halftime box score just handed to her on the way to her locker room, her team up 14. The Wilmington coach, who happens to be her husband, didn’t look offended. The tables would turn an hour later. Dan Burke would be coaching against her school as she stood against that same wall.
“I’m not allowed to cheer,’’ Dan Burke said when the women’s game had begun. For whom could he cheer? His school was facing his wife’s team. He knew all the players for both sides.
Nothing abnormal here for these two, who met when they both played at Chestnut Hill College, a Pottstown guy and a South Jersey girl. (“She was a more successful player,’’ he said, noting she scored almost 1,200 career points. “I was very, very average.”). They’d faced this scenario before as assistants, he at Chestnut Hill, she at league rival Holy Family. She took over at Goldey-Beacom, located in Wilmington, in 2013-14 and he got the Wilmington job a year later.
The whole thing doesn’t seem to faze their 9-month-old baby Julianna, who sat in the front row behind the Goldey-Beacom bench with her two grandmothers during the women’s game, then moved behind the Wilmington bench for the men’s game. A buzzer sounded, Julianna Burke didn’t flinch.
“She was in my stomach all last season,’’ Bethann said of Julianna’s comfort with game noises.
“Has she had her bottle yet?’’ Dan asked when he grabbed Julianna in the stands from his mother, who had earlier pointed to the coach yelling out plays. “There’s Mommy!”
Julianna wore a onesie with Wilmington on the front and Goldey-Beacom on the back. Dan’s father had it made at the King of Prussia Mall. More relatives had similar arrangements. Goldey-Beacom shirts came off between games, revealing Wilmington T-shirts underneath.
At home, Dan said, he’s the one more likely to be watching a late-night West Coast game — “All I want to watch is basketball” — she’s the one who takes a break from that. But she is more all-in focused when she’s doing a scouting report while he might have a game on in the background. Everyone knows everyone in both programs. One of her assistant coaches used to play for him.
There is some shop talk at home. Bethann might see an inbounds play her husband used: “Oh, I like that, I’m going to put that in.”
The hoop talk usually revolves more around how to handle a team issue that might come up, less on X’s-and-O’s.
“Someone is not playing well — they’re kind of down, What do you do?’’ Bethann said. “That kind of thing. You have a circle of coaches. He’s in my circle, obviously.”
The baby just started to crawl, dad said, so there’s no more putting her in front of the TV while he works on his scouting report. Both have full-time jobs in their athletic departments, so her mom usually babysits during the week, his mom is available on Saturdays. Her team practices in the morning more often, his team later in the day.
“We’re able to take the baby recruiting if we have to,’’ Dan said. “She’s pretty well-behaved.”
“I took her to a South Jersey game last night,’’ Bethann said.
They live in Woodstown, convenient to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, getting them to their Delaware campuses. Both have a basketball lineage. Bethann’s late father, Bill Castone, once scored 44 points in a game for Hammonton High and won South Jersey Parochial championships coaching the girls’ team at St. Joseph’s in Hammonton. Dan’s grandfather, Dick Burke, was a walk-on at Villanova in 1953-54. His grandfather, always a Villanova loyalist, took him to the very first Pavilion game against Maryland after it opened when Dan was 6 months old.
Both of their teams made the playoffs last season in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. (He made it to the league final in 2014-15). This time, he represented the family; his Wilmington team lost, 86-57, to host Dominican on Tuesday night in the first round of the CACC tournament.
For the last regular-season game, it was her team that got the “W.” His team was finishing up warmups when she got out of the locker room after her last postgame talk of the season. There were some laughs in there, she said, as the girls told funny stories from the year.
If this is the life they chose, husband and wife agree it’s a good one. Work-life balance just happens to revolve around a basketball.
“It would be funny if she ended up being on the dance team,’’ one of the grandmothers said of Julianna Burke as Dan and Bethann’s baby bopped along happily to the music during a timeout.