By John Rajca
Special to The CS&T
Legendary Philadelphia basketball coach and supporter of Catholic education Edward J. (Eddie) Burke died March 23, 2009. He was 63.
Burke grew up in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia and attended St. Joseph’s Preparatory School. He jokingly stated some time ago, “My sister said she’d get me a Corvette if I went to the Prep. I figured she’s going to be a nurse, she’ll have money … then she went into the convent.”
After leading the Prep to the Catholic League basketball title in 1962, he just missed winning a Catholic League scoring championship in 1963 to Father Judge’s Jim Halpin.
Burke’s 266 points almost tied Halpin’s 268, but a tip-in was credited to a Prep teammate.
After graduating from the Prep, he went on to play at LaSalle College where an injury in his senior year put an end to that facet of his career.
His coaching career began with the Prep’s freshmen in 1968 then on to the varsity from 1969-71. Coaching the Prep to the Catholic League championship in 1971, he moved to St. Thomas More High School and won a championship with them the following season. Staying at St. Tommy until it closed in 1975, Burke coached at Bishop McDevitt in 1976 and West Catholic in 1977.
The college ranks and Drexel University beckoned in 1978 where in 14 seasons he compiled a record of 205 wins and 189 losses. His overall wins/losses totaled 425-283, including 220 wins in the high school ranks.
In the 1985-86 season, Burke took Drexel to the NCAA tournament. While coaching, he also mentored several inspaniduals of note: Bob DiFlorio (coach at the Prep and Neumann College ), Joe Donahue (West Catholic coach and former assistant to Burke), current St. Joseph’s University head coach Phil Martelli and current Villanova head coach Jay Wright.
Along with a successful coaching career, Burke authored two books: “1939-1979 City Title Basketball Games” and “Philadelphia Catholic League Basketball 1920-1989.”
In a nutshell they contain everything one would want to know about Philadelphia scholastic basketball, complete with pictures of Wilt Chamerlain, Wali Jones, Walt Hazzard, Len Barry, Jim Boyle, Jimmy Lynam, Herb Magee, Bobby McNeill, Vince Miller and Tom Gola.
Burke returned to coach at the Prep in 1992 for seven seasons. In August 1999, he became the director of alumni relations at the Prep, a position he held until 2004.
He also ran Burke’s Inn, a tavern in Havertown, with his wife Bette Ann.
A statement from St. Joseph’s Prep said he recently suffered a relapse of lung cancer and was about to receive treatment when he died.
Burke is survived by his wife Bette Ann and their children Maureen, Brendan and Melissa, as well as, his sister, Sister Mary Elizabeth Burke, R.S.M., and brother Msgr. Michael J. Burke. He is predeceased by brothers James F., Thomas G. and Father Peter D. Burke.
A funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Dorothy Church in Drexel Hill March 27. Interment follwed at Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.
Memorial gifts can be donated to the Eddie Burke Scholarship Fund at St. Joseph’s Prep, 1733 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19130.
John Rajca can be reached at email@example.com.