Chris Burns, an assistant coach at Bryant University, became the first openly gay coach in Division I men's basketball Wednesday.
Burns told his story in a first-person essay for Outsports, and his journey was also documented in a detailed profile by USA Today's Scott Gleeson and Erik Brady. According to the profile, Burns told head coach Tim O'Shea he was gay over a year ago, but he only recently informed players and other members of the program.
"There was an initial shock factor," senior forward Curtis Oakley said, per Gleeson and Brady. "But everyone was, like, ‘Yo, Burns, we rockin’ with you.’ It was all love."
A former standout point guard at Bryant, Burns joined the Bulldogs coaching staff four seasons ago. According to his bio on the team's official website, Burns functioned as the program's director of basketball operations during the 2012-13 season before transitioning to his current position as assistant coach.
In the personal essay for Outsports, Burns discussed how attending Nike's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Sports Summit encouraged him to come out publicly:
I met so many people there - gay people in sports - who made me finally realize that this day would come.
To see that support group of people, who have all been working for so many years in sports, was incredibly powerful and inspiring. Being able to learn and talk with members from all parts of the LGBT community sank in just how important being able to tell my story would be, and how there is a responsibility that comes along with meeting these people and being in the positions that we are in the athletic world.
Bryant is slated to open its season Nov. 14 against the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski had some encouraging words for Burns following his announcement.
"One act of courage produces another," Krzyzewski said, per USA Today. "When I think of this, I think of tossing a big stone into a lake or a pond. The ripples he’s creating are huge. To me, it’s a huge step in the right direction for our sport because it can allow others who don’t feel like they can be who they are to do the same."
Burns' courageous decision resulted in an overwhelmingly positive statement of support from a peer leader like Krzyzewski, and hopefully other members of the college basketball community will follow the Hall of Famer's lead moving forward.