Bryan Bartley, 45, is the new athletic director at Hebron Christian Academy. The former professional basketball player and college assistant coach took over for the school's first AD Rick Burlingame in July. Bartley coached Randolph Morris at Landmark Christian, coached with Jeff Lebo at Auburn and was in the Tigers' athletic department during last year's national championship season.
Staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with the New York native about the early '90s Hawks, the difficulties of being a college assistant coach and his big family in this installment of "Getting to Know..."
BB: How did you get hooked up with the people here at Hebron?
BB: I worked with them when I was at Landmark (Christian Academy). Mr. Burlingame was my athletic director. That is when we played Dwight Howard on ESPN. That was the game that I coached. We had Randolph Morris. I was only there four years, but we did really, really well. We were top 25. When I left there I went to Auburn and then from Auburn, here. Between that time, the AD called me back to Auburn (after Lebo was fired as head coach). I had ended up in Atlanta, I don't have a job, I don't have anything. I had a year, just trying to find a job. Then in December, they offered me again. Mr. Burlingame was leaving and they contacted me. But Auburn contacted me too, to come back and work for their AD. So I went back there to work for Jay Jacobs. I worked for the AD a few months after they won the national championship game and then I came here. I started July 1.
BB: What's it like for the assistants when there is a turnover of a head coach?
BB: It's rough, man. That was probably the roughest time I've ever had. What happens is, everybody's contract is different. You may have some whose (contract) runs through June and it's up to the school whether or not they want to extend it. In my case, they gave me another month. I am living off of my savings, my retirement. I had to move out of my home and stay in a hotel. It was rough. You think you are going land on your feet. The new guy (Tony) Barbee said he was going to keep his staff. It's a tough time. You don't have answers for why things happen. That is a faith-walk there. There is not much I can say.
BB: It's got to be roughest for the assistants. They don't have the same financial safety net as the head coach does.
BB: You kind of feel like you are going to bounce back quicker. You feel like your name, you have established yourself. You were at an SEC school. Sure there are some mid-majors that are going to call you. You figure with the job market out there (for college assistants) and when it doesn't happen you have to move on. You have to survive.
BB: Well, you landed here. Hebron must be a big change from Auburn.
BB: It is. It is major. The one thing good about here is the potential to grow. It has so much potential to grow and so much potential from a Christian standpoint. I came in under a great headmaster and the former AD is a mentor of mine. I can't ask for a better guy to turn to. He's been doing it for so long. He's a great guy. We talk all the time. I felt like it was God-led. Everything fit. When I went back to Auburn (as an assistant to the athletic director) I was still living in Suwanee. Here, you are talking about 15-16 miles from the house and my kids can come with me. At Auburn, I was there Monday through Friday and I would come back here on the weekends and see my kids. When you are (working) in college it is so much time away from your family, it makes a difference. With recruiting, scouting.
BB: You have to be home 75 percent more time than you were.
BB: (laughs) Definitely. You should ask my wife.
BB: Where'd you play high school basketball?
BB: I ended up going to school at Archbishop Stepinac, that gave me the chance of a lifetime. That was one of the best things that happened. My high school coach is the AD at Fairfield University (Eugene P. Doris). I played with Tom Parrotta, the head coach at Canisius, (Steve) Masiello, the head coach at Manhattan College, and Timmy O'Toole, he used to be the head coach at Fairfield College. All those guys were on my team. They were all my teammates. That was good going there.
BB: Well, you played all over, overseas and briefly in the NBA, but you landed a job with the Hawks. What were you doing for them?
BB: Sales and marketing. I was there from 1991-1995.
BB: They weren't bad then.
BB: Dominque, Mookie Blalock, Steve Smith. Lenny Wilkins was the coach. It was real good. We won the central division that year.
BB: That was the brawl with the Heat year, right?
BB: (laughing) You remember that, huh? That was all up in the stands. Glen Rice and all of that. Oh, man. That was a big brawl.
BB: That was the worst of those, worse than that English-Harper fight in front of David Stern.
BB: It was going on. Kevin Willis. I talk to a lot of those guys.
BB: It seems you've been at a lot of places when they were doing well, or at least growing.
BB: It's funny you said that. The Hawks rebuilt when I got there. It got better. Landmark, we rebuilt. It got better. Auburn, we rebuild and go 24-12. My third year there we were second place in the SEC (West) behind LSU. We were 10-6 and we should have gotten into the NCAA, but we went to the NIT. There were a lot of rebuilding places. There were good things happening at the time, it was a peak. (Auburn was constructing its new gym). It's the same thing, I feel like, here. I think God is doing some amazing things here. I feel like it's God-led.BB: Well this place just keeps getting bigger.
BB: We now have a football field. That changes everything. Now it is the project of building a track and tennis courts. A cross country track so we can compete here next year. There are a lot of things on the books to try and get done. It takes time.
BB: In this area, the football stadium is a huge step.
BB: I think it's crucial when you look at the time. Mill Creek is getting full, Dacula had a legend it just lost. It's a good time here. It's an interesting situation for me here right now. It's growing in this area.
BB: It must have been wild in Auburn during the national championship season.
BB: I wasn't on-campus, on-campus, but even going back after winning it, it was crazy. It was crazy. I think I have had the opportunity to experience the most unbelievable experience in football. Getting on campus there was nothing I have ever seen in my life like going to an Auburn football game. People talk about Georgia, but Auburn is a different place, especially when they do Tiger Walk. It's a big deal. It's a beautiful place, it's a beautiful campus. Man, it's awesome.
The SEC is different, it's a different place, a different environment. I was cool with Alabama until I went to Auburn. Now, I don't talk about Alabama. If you ask me a question about Alabama I can't say anything. I will plead the Fifth with that.
BB: You have five kids, ages 21 to 3, did you always want a big family?
BB: I am from a big family. Did I want it? It just happened. It is just one of those things. It is enjoyable to be around when I come home. All the joking. Amy my daughter is good because with all the stress, she doesn't know what is going on. So with all those changes, having her around to give me joy, you need that. You need that balance. I had a hard life growing up. I had three levels of playing and my mother and father never saw me play. There are 10 of us in my family and I am second to last. Me and my brother, who is at Winston-Salem, are the only two who went to college. He played football at Winston-Salem State. It was like God always had his hand on my life.