After one year as head basketball coach, the Trigg County gymnasium burned down. For the next two seasons Burnett’s teams played 59 consecutive road games. They practiced in a building provided by Fourshee’s. The surface in the building was asphalt and the only heat was provided by plug in heaters. The fumes from the heaters made it hard to breathe during practice. Despite all this, the basketball team won one more game than it lost each of their two seasons without a gym. In 1962-63, Coach Burnett and the Wildcats got their new gym. They moved into what is currently Wildcat Gymnasium. The first year in the new gym, Trigg County won their first 15 games and was the last undefeated team in the state of Kentucky. The Courier Journal came down and did a story on the Cats. Trigg then promptly lost their first game after the story to Calloway County. The score was 43-42. Calloway was led by Stan Key who went on to play at the University of Kentucky.
Their best chance to go to state was during that 62’-63’ season when they won twenty-three games and only lost three. They lost to Hopkinsville Attucks in the semi-finals of the region after having beaten them three times in the regular season. Coach Burnett’s teams won three district titles in his eight seasons and advanced to the regional semi-finals three times.
Coach Burnett has fond memories of coaching at Trigg County. He was coaching the Cats when Trigg County Schools integrated. He remembers how smooth that went and attributes a lot of that to how well James Boyd (Trigg’s first black player) handled himself. Coach Burnett also said that the 1966 District Championship game stands out in his memory. It was in that game that the Cats came back from 17 down at the half to defeat Livingston. It was George Radford’s two free-throws with eight seconds left that won the game, according to Coach Burnett.
A trip to Dawson Springs also stands out vividly in Duke’s memory. One of his players, Billy Walker, was not at the school to board the team bus. Coach Burnett told Milliard Griffin, the team driver, to leave without him. On the way out of town, the bus passed Walker on the street. Coach Burnett had the bus stop and he told Walker to get on. Walker replied, “I can’t go Coach, I have to go to the store for my mother.” After being told to get on the bus a second time, Walker did. After arriving at Dawson Springs, Burnett borrowed Walker a uniform and shoes since he didn’t have his with him. Walker went on to score 33 points and lead the Cats to victory.
After eight seasons at Trigg, Burnett accepted an offer to become an elementary school principal in Elizabethtown. After five years in school administration, Burnett bought a sporting goods store. He went on to own and operate Duke’s Sporting Goods in Elizabethtown for the next 30 years.
Burnett is retired and enjoys life with his wife of 53 years, Jane. They have three daughters. Kelly manages 325 apartments in Lexington. Patty is an Assistant Principal in Scott County, Kentucky. Carol is an Elementary School teacher.
The Burnetts’ also have three grandchildren. Kim is 24 and manages an apartment complex in Lexington. Greg is a freshman at Elizabethtown Community College and Alex is a senior at Elizabethtown High School. Coach Burnett now spends his time playing golf, following his grandchildren and traveling.
Coach Burnett would not say who his best player was while he was coaching in Cadiz. He did coach three young men who went on to coach at Trigg County. Jim Wallace, Buddy Sivills and George Radford all played for Coach Burnett. Wallace stated that Burnett had a tremendous influence on his life as well as giving him an opportunity by hiring him as an asstistant coach. Wallace credits Burnett for turning the program in a positive direction.
Buddy Sivills said that Burnett was a tough coach. Sivills said, “A lot of current players probably could not have played for Coach Burnett. He demanded your maximum effort every time out. His strength was teaching fundamentals. I was ahead of most of the players I played with in college because of the instruction I got from Coach Burnett.”
To read the conclusion of this story, pick up the latest issue of The Cadiz Record.