Surprise! Busken returns to resurrect North High football

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                </div>  North High School has been hinting in recent weeks at some kind of a “blockbuster” hire to fill the vacant head-coaching position in the school’s long-suffering football program. Yesterday, […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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North High School has been hinting in recent weeks at some kind of a “blockbuster” hire to fill the vacant head-coaching position in the school’s long-suffering football program.

Yesterday, the central Phoenix school made good on the hype with a hire that surprised most people – and undoubtedly impressed those that follow prep football in the state.

They got a guy who’s been to the top of the mountain more than once to lead their program there this time.

Bernie Busken, who reached near-legendary status during seven years at Mesa’s Mountain View High School in the ’90s, walked away from the game after directing the Basha High School program for the past four years, posting a 31-16 record at the Chandler school.

He said he had personal matters that needed attention.  Many felt the pressures of the job just wore him down.

After undergoing some surgery he had put off until after the football season ended, and with some much-needed down time to reflect on his next step in life, he has evidently decided he is re-charged enough to take on the challenge of rebuilding a program that is coming off a season in which the Mustangs were able to collect just two wins, both against win-less opponents, and has had just one winning campaign in almost a decade.

The situation is uncomfortably similar to one that occurred just a couple of years ago at Corona del Sol High School when the Aztecs hired Tom Joseph and counted on the highly-successful 52-year-old prep coach to work his magic once again and save a once-proud program that was fast going south.  The Tempe school was coming off a 1-10 season.

Joseph’s teams at Mountain View played in three championship games, won six regional titles, and brought home a state championship in 2012.  (An interesting side note: he took over that program when Busken left part-way into the season.

But as it turned out, there wasn’t enough of the old magic left in the tank to pull up the Corona program.  Joseph went 5-5 in his first year and 4-5 in 2012 before being fired amid complaints from parents about the disciplinary measures he was using with his players.  He was let go after an 0-4 start to the season.

Busken’s resume is even more impressive than Joseph’s, which is what makes the move to North High newsworthy.  His hire could have a ripple effect on the landscape by showing it’s possible to win big, even when you don’t have cushy athletic budgets and an abundance of talent.  He says he’s done it before.  In fact, he kind of specialized early in his career in building up teams that were down and out.

His reputation here in Arizona, however, was built during his tenure at Mountain View.  During that time he won three state championships, set a 5A state record by winning 40 games in a row, and compiled a stunning overall record of 82-9 before being asked to leave when parents complained of what they perceived to be abusive treatment of his players.

After bouncing around at schools in three different states, including six seasons at Western New Mexico University, he returned to Arizona to accept the head-coaching job at Basha High School, where he won nine games in each of the first two years of his four-year stopover there.  He finished with 7-4 and 6-6 seasons, but decided the grind was taking a toll and resigned from the program after last season.

Busken will have to reach back into his bag of tricks one more time to succeed with this latest challenge at North. That program was on top of the mountain back in the mid-2000s when the Mustangs enjoyed 9-2 and 11-2 seasons under Stuart Goldstein.  But since Goldstein left, three other head coaches have stepped to the plate – with little success.  Only once in seven seasons have the Mustangs been able to win more than five games.

He’s already begun assembling his team and talking to the parents, even though the job offer has to be approved by the district’s governing board.  But the new hire will likely get a rubber-stamp approval.

By that time, the new head coach will already be off and running – like a man short on time and long on challenge. The first practice of the 2014 season is just two weeks away.