Brian Burke said goodbye the way he said hello.
He did not offer excuses and then pointed out that he wasn’t offering excuses. He would, however, like to work for a team that isn’t sold. Both times that happened, in Vancouver and in Toronto, he lost his job soon after.
“The people that hired me hired Brian Burke,” he said. “Maybe the new guys don’t like that brand. Maybe they want someone who is a bit more conventional and they’re entitled to that.”
He gracefully answered questions in a terribly difficult situation then told one reporter the best thing about losing his job was the fact that he would never have to talk to the journalist again.
Management leaves collateral damage. Burke has inflicted it and had it inflicted on him. He expects and understands both sides of it.
“I could blame this on my personality and say ‘they didn’t like my personality,’” he said. “Those all become pretexts and excuses later. You can be as obnoxious as you want to be if you’re in first place.”
Burke said he was told why he was fired with the team’s season opener nine days in advance but he wouldn’t share any details. He likened the shock to being hit in the side of the head with a two-by-four. Several questions about why he was fired generated the same response: “ask them.” They, of course, aren’t saying why.
What made Brian Burke so arresting was his rigid duty to kindness for those who held less power: the homeless, gay people, players who worry about being traded over Christmas, tough guys heading to the minors, mothers of goalies who he believes were manipulated by media people.
“I’m not changing. I’m not going to change how I do things.” he said. “That’s not possible. I’m Irish and stubborn.
“You ask me a question and I’m going to answer it as honestly as I can. If you don’t like the answer that’s too bad. You asked the question. You write something I don’t like I’m going to call you and tell you. I’m not changing.”
It’s not that he said that he wouldn’t change. He said that he couldn’t.
That of course, isn’t true. Everyone can change. Everyone should change.
Change isn’t any one thing. It isn’t necessarily courageous nor cowardly. It is the human condition to struggle with and be bettered or marginalized by change.
Great men refuse to change. It’s called integrity.
Great men adapt to it, create it. It’s called genius.
This is the periodic table of elements for Brian Burke:
Who he was = who he is = who he will be.
That formula got him what he termed the best job in pro sports in November of 2008. It got him fired, Wednesday. No surprise that he spoke not of regrets.