skip navigation

NWBA Hall of Fame Member Frank Burns Passed Away

01/09/2020, 3:45pm CST
By NWBA Board

The NWBA celebrates the life and impact of Frank T. Burns (1952 – 2020)

It is with great sadness that the NWBA shares that our coach, our mentor and friend Frank Burns has passed away on January 8.

He came to the game through fortunate circumstance in 1974 and never left. Before he got to college, Frank Burns had never seen a wheelchair basketball game and probably didn't know it existed. But when the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater assigned him a roommate who happened to be a wheelchair user, it changed his life. And, in turn, that would impact the lives of so many others.

He left Whitewater to the University of Kentucky where he earned a Master's degree in Therapeutic Recreation but would return to coach the Warhawks to their first Intercollegiate National Championship.

His success on the bench reached the highest levels.

  • Head Coach of Casa Colina Condors, the dominant team of the 80’s with 8 National Championships from 1982-1990
  • Head Coach of Gold Medal Men’s USA Paralympic Team (Seoul 1988)
  • Assistant Coach of World Championship Men’s USA National Team (Sydney 1998) and Bronze Medal USA Paralympic Team (Sydney 2000)

Frank was a teacher at his core and the common thread throughout his career was an emphasis on helping athletes gain access to sport and to the learning that would help them improve. It didn't matter if it was at the local team level or on the elite national team stage, he had a penchant for motivating athletes and teams to get the most out of them.

More than a coach, Frank was a builder, helping grow the game and opportunities to play around the country by launching various new teams (Men’s, Women’s, Juniors) throughout his career.

  • Member of Lakeshore Foundation Team, which created various adaptive sports and coaching education programs both in Birmingham and throughout Alabama as well as the multisport National Paralympic Training Center
  • Conducted wheelchair basketball clinics in 17 different states and 5 countries (Japan, Korea, Bahrain, Canada, and Mexico)
  • Organized 20 years of NWBA National Development Camps
  • At the 1997 National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Birmingham, AL, he secured prime time, national television coverage of the championship games
  • He was the first NWBA Executive Director (2000-02)
  • And most recently the Chair of NWBA Hall of Fame Committee

More than the game, Frank loved the people who played the game, those who coached it, and those who organized things so others could play. He cherished the history of those who built it to this point and the promise of those yet to come who would take it further, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that history would not be forgotten.

The only thing greater than his impact on growing the reach and quality of the game was the impact he had on the people he had a chance to work with. Coach, mentor and leader, he embodied the famous Will Rogers quote, "I never met a man I didn't like."

He possessed a gift for gab, combining loquacity and levity, dropping one-liners that would disarm anyone. At his core, he was a salesman and a visionary. He always held close the ideal of what the NWBA could and should be and we are inspired by that every day.

Over the past month that Frank was hospitalized, he used his time to remind us of the most compelling attribute about this organization: The NWBA is a Family.

We are grateful to the Burns Family for their ongoing communication with us throughout the process and they appreciate all the love sent Frank's way. Just as importantly, we thank them for sharing their brother with us.

Frank loved the game and the game loved him back. He will be missed but never forgotten.

Details of the memorial services for Frank will be made available on his CaringBridge page at:

Tag(s): Home