Boys Coach of the Year: Burns guides Parrish to new heights
by W. Brian Hale
Mar 30, 2014 | 1216 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Parrish basketball coach Heath Burns instructs his team during the Class 1A state championship game vs. St. Jude at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex in February. The Tornadoes went 28-3 on the season and advanced to the title game for the first time in school history. Photo by Johnathan Bentley
Parrish basketball coach Heath Burns instructs his team during the Class 1A state championship game vs. St. Jude at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex in February. The Tornadoes went 28-3 on the season and advanced to the title game for the first time in school history. Photo by Johnathan Bentley
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Heath Burns main goal when he first arrived to take over the basketball program at Parrish High School in 2011 was to compete for a state championship.

It took him just three years to accomplish his goal, with the Tornadoes making their first trip to the AHSAA Final 48 and earning the right to play for the Class 1A state championship.
Along the way, Burns’ team captured Walker County, Area 13 and Northwest Region Championships, while several of his players earned top honors for their performances on the court.
Burns is the Daily Mountain Eagle Coach of the Year.
Entering the 2013-14 season, the Tornadoes had several of their top players returning, but also concerns as new players joined seasoned veterans to form the core of the Parrish lineup. Seniors Barry Hill and Reginald Harris brought plenty of experience back from a Parrish team that had made a trip to the Northwest Region Championship game in 2012-13, along with eighth-grader Isaac Chatman and sophomore Jaylan Clay. 
New arrivals Denzell Daley and Mykelti Chatman, along with Noah Ard, had proven worthy to belong in the lineup, but continuity and chemistry among the veterans and the newcomers was in question, along with the absence of senior all-star point guard Jermichael Harris — who had been sidelined until midseason due to off-the-court problems.
Burns however, kept his team focused and dedicated to constantly improving. Parrish’s only losses during the regular season came to Class 6A Hueytown and Class 3A Sipsey Valley. 
After the Christmas Break, Jermichael Harris returned to the team and was joined by another talented star in Trayvon Chatman, instantly creating depth. 
The result was a 19-game winning streak that propelled the Tornadoes to a trip to Birmingham and the Class 1A state championship game — in the process repeating as Walker County and Area 13 champions and avenging the previous season-ending loss by capturing the regional title. Parrish ousted No. 2 Sunshine in the Final 48 semifinals before falling to defending champion No. 1 St. Jude in the championship game.
In reflection of the landmark season, Burns, who also made his debut as an all-star coach for the North squad in the North-South All-Star Game in the preseason, said the senior leadership of Reginald and Jermichael Harris, along with Hill, was a monumental part of the Tornadoes success.
“It always helps to have good senior leadership and we had three outstanding seniors in Jermichael, Reginald and Barry. The three of them helped bring things together,” Burns said. 
“We worried about chemistry at the beginning of the year that wasn’t there at the onset — we were winning games, but we weren’t the team we knew we should be. But those three seniors allowed us as a coaching staff to sit back and let them lead the team. All three helped the newcomers blend in a lot easier for our entire coaching staff. They meant so much to our team and our school.”
Burns also credits the development of his bench depth and his team’s decision to get saved together after the Walker County Tournament as being a great part of the historic season.
“I think our depth became a huge strength for us this year — you could always look at the stat sheet and see someone who came off the bench and contributed well in every game. It was so very critical when our starters got into foul trouble or needed a rest that guys like Isaac, Mykelti, Noah and Jaylan came in and played great,” Burns said. “When they all as a team went together and got saved was a true moment for everyone involved in our program — from the players to the community. When they put God in front of the team meant a lot to each of them as well as myself. It made us all into one big family and made this season such a wonderful experience.”