Darius Burton, Baldwin boys basketball head coach, watches the action...

Darius Burton, Baldwin boys basketball head coach, watches the action during a non-league game against host Farmingdale on Dec. 7, 2021. Credit: James Escher

Baldwin High will win a boys basketball game soon and give Darius Burton another major milestone, his 350th win as the Bruins’ coach.

He used to be an All-American point guard for the program, and he’s still skilled at passing.

In this case, it’s the credit.

"It really hasn’t sunk in," Burton said Wednesday. "But it’s not about me . . . It’s about the people around me, all the great assistant coaches that I’ve had and all the great players that have come through this program. You’re only as good as your help."

But across these last 22 seasons, he has been the driving force behind it all as the face of Baldwin boys basketball.

Burton, with help from his players and assistants Jon Henry and Alvin Woods, is 6-1 this season. His overall bottom line is 347-89.

And yet to define him just by his number of victories and his three Long Island and six Nassau AA championships and his 13 conference titles would be shortsighted.

Between coaching, teaching and mentoring, he has touched the lives of so many Baldwin kids in such a positive way since 1999.

"He’s probably one of the more beloved staff members in the district, both by students and staff," athletic director Eduardo Ramirez said.

"He’s a huge impact on the community, huge impact, one of the most respected members of the community, both athletics and non-athletics."

Chris Manning moved to Baldwin from Queens for his sophomore year and joined Burton’s varsity.

"He taught me how to be a point guard . . . the fundamentals of the game, how to be a leader," Manning said.

Manning became an All-Long Island talent and a D-III standout at SUNY Plattsburgh.

These days, he’s Coach Manning, a 31-year-old assistant at Rochester, his fourth college stop.

"As a person, [Burton has] been a mentor to me since that sophomore year of high school," Manning said. "He’s one of the reasons I continue to coach and try to be a mentor to student-athletes."

Senior center Jacob Oka described Burton’s style as both a "yeller and a father figure."

"He helps me see what talent I have," Oka said. "He really pushes us to be better and greater than everybody. He’s a really good coach. As a person, he helps us build to become men and prepares us for the future."

Burton, whose father, Darius, was a longtime coach at Lawrence, took over in 2000 after his old coach, Mike Cohen, retired. Burton’s teams always play hard, play defense and play fast. Ramirez said he’s a big competitor but is "a soft-spoken, mild-mannered man" away from the games.

This Baldwin High physical education teacher is a popular presence in the school’s mentor-mentee program. His mentees have included basketball players and other students, both boys and girls.

"I feel like a lot of kids feel like they can talk to me about certain things," Burton said. "And I think they look up to me. That makes me feel good, too, because at the end of the day, one of the reasons I became a teacher, period, is to help the youth.

"Hopefully I can help somebody or make a difference in somebody’s life . . . I try to tell them I’m there for them. ‘If you need me for anything, come to me.’ "

Burton, who moved to Coram in 2005, had moved from Queens to Baldwin after seventh grade. He wasn’t just a great basketball player in high school. He also was a two-time All-American forward in soccer and was heavily recruited.

But the 1993 grad took a basketball scholarship to Hofstra and scored 1,060 points in four seasons, the last three under the famed Jay Wright. Burton ranks third in career assists and fourth in steals. He later played a season of minor-league basketball.

"I think I was better at soccer," Burton said. "But basketball was my true love."

As a fifth-year Hofstra grad student in the fall of 1997, Burton returned to soccer. He hadn’t lost the touch, claiming All-America East honors and being named rookie of the year.

"They always make a joke now as a Hofstra alum: I’m the oldest rookie of the year," Burton said.

Now he’s 46. Burton has coached several sports, from basketball to soccer, from baseball to badminton.

So is it Baldwin forever for him?

"I love it here," Burton said. "I love my co-workers. I love the kids. I want to give back to a community and a town that was good to me when I grew up. Once I retire, who knows? I may want to take my talent to the college ranks. I have eight years left to do my 30 years. But I’m here forever right now."

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