A.D. Burtschi left his mark on Putnam City community

PREP BASKETBALL

Story by Cameron Jourdan – The Oklahoman

WARR ACRES — Archie Dean Burtschi was a man of his word.

Vernon Belcher was Putnam City High’s principal back in 1982. He had an agreement with a coach from Kentucky to come lead the Pirates’ boys basketball team. Yet on the first day of school, Belcher got notice his new hire wasn’t coming. He immediately called Burtschi, who was at Mount St. Mary. “Being a very honorable man, he would not leave at that late of a date and leave them shorthanded,” Belcher said. For the 1982-83 season, Belcher coached Putnam City. As soon as it concluded, he made another call to Burtschi, who would accept a job at the place he spent three decades and changed countless lives. “There are guys who coach for the notoriety, who coach for the money,” Belcher said. “But there were a few of us who totally love the game. A.D. was one of those. He was like a second father to all of his players.”

A.D. Burtschi died Thursday night due to kidney failure. He was 70. His funeral is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Warr Acres’ St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and open to the public.

Burtschi spent 39 years coaching at the high school level. Respect became a word synonymous with his successful career. He earned it from everyone — his players, opposing coaches, fans — and it’s why more than 100 former players showed up to his final game, a 60-59 Putnam City victory against rival Putnam West in 2016. Burtschi collected 752 career wins across his two head coaching stops. He coached his first seven years at Mount St. Mary before spending the next 32 roaming the halls and gym at Putnam City. He sits third on the all-time wins list for Oklahoma boys basketball coaches, trailing only Boney Matthews and Ray West, who died earlier this summer. Burtschi’s coaching style transcended generations, his remarkable flair and leadership prevailing in each locker room he stepped into.

Edmond North girls basketball coach Pete Papahronis played at Putnam City during Burtschi’s first two seasons and later was an assistant coach after playing professionally in Europe. Papahronis said Burtschi was able to sustain success because his coaching style never wavered. “Kids only know what they’re taught,” Papahronis said. “Hard work, discipline, character, Christian values. He never veered away from that. He stood true to who he was and what he believed in. I don’t think those things ever go out of style.”

Burtschi was born in Chickasha and went to the now defunct St. Joseph’s Academy in high school. Both his parents had died by the time he was 5, and the Burtschi family adopted him. He went on to play basketball at Oklahoma City University. His son, Jacob, said a bum knee made A.D. end his playing career sooner than he wanted. It just gave A.D. the pathway into coaching.

Bill Robertson, who coached 23 years at Putnam North, said A.D.’s impact on basketball in the Putnam City area was unmatched. “He was a superb basketball coach,” Robertson said. “He handled the young men very well. He did a tremendous job and really put Putnam City on the map.”

His accolades earned him spots in multiple hall of fames including the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Associations. On Friday, Burtschi was inducted into Putnam City’s inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame class. Only a day after his passing, his three grandsons, Jackson Burtschi, Jordan Flinton and Braden Hudson, accepted the award on his behalf.

Throughout his career, Burtschi had chances to pursue coaching opportunities at the college level, but he never seriously entertained them. Putnam City was too close to his heart. Now the court that bears his name will always be a reminder of the mark Burtschi left on the community, and it had way more to do than his wins and losses. “He wanted to stay closer to family,” Jacob said. “Not only the personal family, but the family he had at Putnam City. It was too tough for him to walk away.

“Once a Pirate, always a Pirate.”

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