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YSU COACH SEARCH Edwards has winning background



Published: Thu, April 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Indiana (Pa.) University coach interviewed on campus Wednesday.

By PETE MOLLICA

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- Gary Edwards toured the Youngstown State University campus Wednesday and everywhere he went he had the same thought -- "pretty nice."

Edwards, the veteran coach at Indiana (Pa.) University, was the second candidate to be interviewed for YSU's vacant position.

"I hadn't been to this university in a long time and I was amazed to see what they have done here," Edwards said. "Everywhere I went my comment was the same -- 'pretty nice.'

"I think that part of the problems here recently is that not enough people have been shown all the facilities that this university has and if I'm selected to be the coach that would be one of my first tasks."

Many winning seasons

Edwards, 47, has spent 21 years as a college head coach with an overall record of 370-247. He has had 16 winning seasons, including seven 20-win campaigns.

He's spent nine seasons at IUP with a record of 187-79, which included a 25-8 record in 1999-2000 when the Indians reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II tournament.

Prior to Indiana, Edwards was the coach at Charleston Southern of the Big South Conference. He inherited a team with a losing tradition but posted a 121-133 record, including a 19-10 record in 1994-95.

He also coached three years at Barton College, formerly Atlantic Christian, where he was 25-10 and 25-9 his last two years with a program that had 19 consecutive losing seasons before his arrival.

"I've coached 254 games in Division I basketball and I know what it takes to win there," Edwards said, "and we did it at a school that have limited resources, nowhere near what they have here."

Formula for winning

But Edwards warned that turning around the YSU program will not be an overnight process.

"To do it right it is going to take some time," he said. "You have to establish a relationship with the area high school coaches and AAU coaches. I would concentrate my recruiting in the Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas along with Detroit.

"We are going to recruit everybody, even the guys we feel we don't have a chance to get, because you never know when they might want to come back," he said.

Edwards said Indiana (Pa.) is one of the best Division II programs in the country.

"When I came there it was more of a move toward Division I than the program [Charleston Southern] that I left," he said.

"I've had lots of success there, winning the Eastern Region title several times and advancing to the Elite Eight, but at this point in my career I'm looking to do it at the Division I level.

"I'm ready for the challenge," he added.

"I want to be in a Division I program that has the ammunition to be a contender. I didn't have that at the last Division I school.

Focus on defense

Edwards said the rebuilding process will be done in steps.

"First you want to work to get a home [conference] tournament game, then you want to win a couple of tournament games and finally you want to be able to have that first-round bye.

"The Horizon League is a great conference and this would be a great challenge for me," he said.

Asked about his style of play, Edwards didn't hesitate.

"Everything starts at the defensive end of the floor," he said. "We led our conference in scoring the last eight years, but it was all because of our defense.

"Last season we forced Slippery Rock into 45 turnovers and won easily, scoring over 100 points. On offense I like to keep it simple, the more complicated you make it the players seem to work less hard at it," he added.

"I want to win and I'm a heck of a lot better coach today than I was three years ago," he continued. "I'm a great recruiter when I can get to mom and dad and in Division I you get to talk with more moms and dads."

As for academic standards and graduation rates, Edwards takes full responsibility.

"I've got to recruit players who can meet those standards," he said. "I expect them to go to class and to take in all of the college life while they are here. When you stop to think about it, these athletes have it pretty darn good while they're here.

"I want to do things here that I've done at IUP, and if I'm here, I'm here for the long haul," he said.

The third and final candidate, Jerry Slocum of Gannon University, will be interviewed today. Central State coach Michael Grant interviewed on Tuesday.

mollica@vindy.com




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