Coach Gary Edwards' column

FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 3-17-18


This will be my last column of the season. Before I go into hibernation for the summer, I want to tell you what is right with college basketball, and what is wrong.

To find what is right you have to look no further than Francis Marion and UNC-Pembroke. The Patriots and the Braves played for the fourth time this season in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Tournament.

It was a hard-fought battle between two teams who shared a mutual respect. Francis Marion hit a three with 5.1 seconds left on the clock to tie the game, but UNCP raced down the court and barely beat the buzzer with a 30-foot game winner.

One team elated. One team heartbroken. Both teams accepting the outcome with class and dignity.

Afterwards, there was not a dry eye in the locker room as our four seniors spoke eloquently about this season and their time at Francis Marion. They spoke of love and commitment and sacrifice, and it was a moment none of us in that tiny room will ever forget.

There are few things in this world that produce such raw emotion. The highs and the lows of a game, of a season, are not easily duplicated and they are wonderful provisions for a young person to carry down life's winding road.

That is why I became a college basketball coach, and that is what is right with college basketball.

Money is what is wrong with college basketball, at least at the big-time level.  CBS, and TNT, and TBS, and ESPN, are all throwing enormous sums of money at the NCAA to televise college basketball.

Consequently, coaches are paid too much, athletic departments are bloated as beached whales, academic integrity takes a back seat, and the workforce (players) accept under the table scraps designed to keep them coming back for more.

The NCAA (our institutions of higher learning) and frankly, you (the viewing public), don't really give a damn how the sausage is made. Everyone just wants to make sure the sausage is hot and ready to serve in time for tonight's tip-off.

You notice the NCAA has not declared anyone mentioned in the FBI sting ineligible. They are not going to derail this money train until well after "One Shining Moment" plays on April 2nd.

And that is what is wrong with college basketball. Enjoy the sausage. I'll see you next season.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 3-10-18


March is here, and there is indeed madness surrounding the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It's just not the madness you might imagine.

The Francis Marion men's basketball team qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament and plays UNC-Pembroke in a first round game today at 12:00 noon. I think that is Eastern Standard Time, but we are so far off the grid we could be in another time zone for all I know.

You see, the Patriots are playing the Braves at Lincoln Memorial University which is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. Harrogate makes Americus, Georgia, look like New York City.

The Division II tournament is broken up into eight regions across the country. Lincoln Memorial is the #1 ranked team in the country and in the Southeast Region, so they get to host the eight-team regional tournament.

Thus, two teams who are about 50 miles apart had to travel over 350 miles by bus to play a basketball game that could have been played at South of the Border. My suggestion to let Pedro referee was met with stony silence by NCAA administrators.

How about this…if we were Division I teams we could have flown to the tournament site.

Anything over 350 miles and you get to fly.

In Division III, the distance between a participating school and the tournament site must be over 500 miles before the NCAA will permit a team to use air transportation.

In Division II, however, if the distance is less than 600 miles you have to travel by bus. I guess the NCAA figures we Division II souls are a little tougher and can handle the wear and tear on our hind-quarters.

And that makes perfect sense to the NCAA. All are supposedly student-athletes with the same academic time demands, playing the same sport, but we make one group ride on a bus for 600 miles, and another for 500 miles, while another only has to ride the road for 350 miles.

Here is another thing that is logical to the NCAA. Our team hotel is located over 40 miles from Harrogate.

While we have enjoyed looking at the cows and the sheep and the humans with no teeth along the way, it takes an hour to get to the arena. Each way. On winding mountain roads.

The NCAA would have you think all student-athletes are created equal, regardless of classification, regardless of sport. And yet, they don't ask Mike Krzyzewski's players to ride a bus for an hour to get up a few shots before a tournament game.

But, hey, I am not complaining. We are competing for a national championship and our trainer, Eric, tells me the team is mostly healthy and ready to go for today's game.

He did say we may have to stock up on some Preparation H for the ride home.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 3-3-18


I don't want to talk about the FBI's investigation into college basketball. Everyone seems to be so surprised and shocked about $100,000 payments to recruits, but impermissible benefits to five-star recruits have been going on since our universities decided to dance with the revenue producing devil.

Did you know the United States is the only country in the world that sponsors big-time sports at its institutions of higher learning? Perhaps the rest of the world understands it is like mixing oil and water; you can try to do it but it doesn't work very well.

College presidents, please spare me the mock indignation. You and your institutions sold your souls long ago to the television networks and shoe companies.

You decided to take their money, and you will continue to take their money (the Power Five conferences each generate over a billion dollars in revenue each year), while you wring your hands and feign astonishment that a family from the inner city of Detroit would accept a $10,000 bribe.

But I am not going to talk about that today. I am going to talk about Iowa's Jordan Bohannon, who purposely missed a free throw the other day to protect the record of Hawkeyes legend, Chris Street.

Chris Street was a great player for Iowa who died in a car accident in 1993. He held the record of 34 consecutive free throws made, but Bohannon was set to break it in a game against Northwestern.

With Street's parents in attendance, Bohannon pointed to the sky and clanked what would have been his 35th consecutive free throw off the front of the rim. Chris Street still holds the record.

I want to talk about Purdue's 7'2" 300 pound center, who broke down and cried like a baby when thanking the Boilermaker crowd on Senior Day for their support of his epileptic sister, Erin.

It seems they raised money for Erin to have a support dog, Nick, and it has changed her life for the better. They also raised a significant sum for the Epilepsy Foundation in her name.

Finally, I want to talk about Francis Marion's own John Jenkins. John didn't have any family to walk out with him when he was introduced on Senior Day, so our entire team walked out with him.

True to form, when John played in the game, instead of trying to score himself, his final collegiate play was a pass to a teammate for a wide open shot.

I prefer to talk about true student-athletes who maintain the purity and, yes, the magic of athletic competition. All the other actors in this sad play are not worth the ink.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 2-24-18


The men's basketball team at Francis Marion University plays its last regular season home game this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against Georgia College and State University. We will be honoring our four seniors: Detrek Browning, Warren Specht, Judah Alexander, and John Jenkins.

The coaches and players have looked at a lot of film in preparation for today's game. We will rewind the film, and sometimes fast forward it, but the most important tool at a coach's disposal is the pause button.

As I hit the pause button yesterday, showing Georgia College's offensive tendencies, I thought how nice it would be if we could hit our own little pause button to freeze some of life's most precious moments.

From a basketball standpoint, I'd love to pause it when Detrek stole the ball against UNC-Pembroke a few years ago and hit the game winning shot as time expired. Or maybe I would freeze his 41-point performance against Augusta earlier this season.

My son played tight end at Hartwick College and caught an 87-yard touchdown pass in his senior season. It would be nice to relive the pride and excitement I felt as I watched him rumble down the sideline.

I'd give anything to pause that moment in Columbia when my little girl was sworn in to practice law in South Carolina. But if I held the button down too long then maybe I would have missed dancing with her at her wedding just months later.

My father and I playing golf at Suffolk (VA) Golf Course when I was 10, and getting a chocolate milk shake on the way home. Freeze it!

But no, I want to fast forward to when he saw me play basketball in college, or when I cut down the nets as a coach. Pause it again when I kissed him good-bye for the last time.

I guess you can't pause life's precious moments. If you do, you might just miss the next one.

So the seniors we honor at today's game will have their memories. Warren tying the game against USC-Aiken with a fall-away three as time expired. Judah stealing the ball and sealing a home win with a thunderous dunk.

But they can't pause those moments because, after all, there may be more magic right around the corner. Those games are in the past.

Who knows, Johnnie Jenkins just might hit the game winner against Georgia College today. And the film will continue to play.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 2-17-18


February is Black History Month. I am not black, and I am not a historian, but I want to tell you about Dr. Catherine McCottry.

I didn't personally know Dr. McCottry, but from my time living in Charleston, I know people who did know her. She was the first female African-American OB-GYN in Charleston, and she died this past week just days after her 98th birthday.

She became a doctor in 1945, graduating from the Howard University College of Medicine. When she started her practice, society demanded her waiting room be segregated, as were the hospitals where she delivered Charleston's children.

Can you imagine the obstacles this woman had to overcome? But she was known as a woman who accepted few excuses. She began working when she was 12 and paid her own way through medical school.

In an interview with the Charleston Post and Courier when she was 87, Dr. McCottry said, "I was out there all by myself, and I knew that. I depended on me. I didn't let anybody turn me around."

She concluded the interview with, "You set your mind to what you want to do and you do it."

But what about the racism she most surely endured? What about the gender discrimination she faced in what was then a male dominated profession?

A colleague in Charleston, Dr. Thaddeus Bell, said she would, "…cuss like a sailor and talk back to them. She had to do that in order to protect herself."

Dr. McCottry became an outspoken advocate for women and their health, and she would tell her patients in no uncertain terms what they needed to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle. She was a no-nonsense doctor who accepted few excuses from her patients as well.

She was the same with the young women she mentored. Dr. DeAnna Cheek, one of the countless women Dr. McCottry steered into medicine remembered how tough she was but also said, "She was always there for us. She always helped us to have self-esteem, and really helped us to understand it's quite an accomplishment to do what we did."

I feel bad for the young people of today because they are constantly bombarded with reasons why they can't do something. Racial and gender discrimination. Financial inequality. Historical prejudices.

All are real and all are obstacles for some. But, back in 1945, did a young, black woman not hear about those things?

Or did Catherine McCottry choose not to let them stand in her way.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 2-10-18


It's a big day at Francis Marion University! The culmination of Homecoming 2018 begins this morning with the annual Homecoming Parade through campus.

You won't want to miss me driving my vintage Sebring convertible down Alumni Drive. I'll have the top down, waving and throwing candy to all the children.

Yesterday, the Patriots softball team played Mount Olive for a jar of pickles, and today our baseball team takes on Augusta for a pair of Master's tickets, and my men's basketball team will be playing the University of North Georgia with huge playoff implications on the line.

Homecoming is a time-honored American tradition where a school's alumni are welcomed back to campus to reconnect, reminisce, and share a collective pride in alma mater. The festivities are many times centered around a football game in the Fall.

Francis Marion does not have a football team, so many of our festivities are held in conjunction with a men's and women's basketball doubleheader. That puts a lot of pressure on Jeri Porter, coach of the Patriot Women, and on me, because you are supposed to win your Homecoming game.

The University of Missouri is credited with having the first Homecoming. Around 1910, then Athletic Director Chester Brewster advertised a "coming home" game against the University of Kansas.

It was a huge success, and soon other colleges and high schools followed suit. Through the years some unique traditions have evolved.

Homecoming fell on October 31 one year for C.E. Jordan High School of Durham, North Carolina. So now the entire marching band and alumni dress up in Halloween costumes for the football game and dance.

At Cupertino High School in California, soon after the king and queen are announced at halftime of the football game, the entire water polo team traces across the field…wearing nothing but Speedos.

Ball State has its "Bed Races" down the main street of town. Kent State has "Kiss on the K" where alumni kiss each other at the main plaza. Central Florida has the "Spirit Splash" where everyone jumps in the giant fountain at the center of campus.

Florence's own Wilson High School has a Homecoming second to none. With a downtown parade, Tigerfest, and countless other activities, current and former Tigers paint the town in purple and gold.

But today it will be all red, white, and blue out at Francis Marion University. We are all set to induct the newest members of our Hall of Fame, and, of course, we will announce the Homecoming Court at halftime of the men's basketball game.

I just have to find my Speedo.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 2-3-18


I don't usually pay much attention to the Super Bowl. Oh, I will watch the game, and eat wings and nachos like the rest of you, but most of the time I am in bed before the cooler of Gatorade is dumped on the winning coach's head.

But tomorrow I'll be watching a little more closely. Gene Steratore will be the referee of Super Bowl LII and I know him, sort of. When I coached basketball up in Western Pennsylvania he refereed a bunch of my games, and we have stayed in touch through the years.

He was, and is, a great college basketball referee. He does a lot of Big 10 games now, but back then he worked the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

He was the rare official who never took himself too seriously, and I always enjoyed kidding with him as he worked. Toward the end of my tenure at IUP we would even go out and grab a sandwich after the game.

You'll see him tomorrow. He was made for television and he will make those penalty explanations interesting and fun to watch.

The only other connection I have to the game is with Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry. He collects shoes and has over 600 pairs of Jordan sneakers.

I coach basketball and I own several pair of sneakers, too. I know it is not a close connection but that's all I could come up with. Hey, I know the referee!

How about I leave you with some Super Bowl Fun Facts:

New England will be wearing white jerseys and they are 3-0 in Super Bowls when they wear white. In the last 13 Super Bowls the team wearing white has won 12.

This will be Justin Timberlake's first halftime performance since he exposed Janet Jackson's breast in 2004.

Carol Channing, who turned 97 on January 31, was the first Super Bowl halftime performer back in 1970.

The NFL pays for up to 150 Super Bowl rings for the champions at up to $5,000 per ring. At least they will save on shipping this year because ring manufacturer Jostens is based in Minnesota.

Through the years the coin toss has produced 27 tails and 24 heads.

And finally, in Vegas you can bet on anything Super Bowl related. There is a prop bet on what color that Gatorade will be when it is dumped on the coach's head.

I'm definitely not going to bed early tomorrow night because I have orange.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 1-27-18


The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) wrapped up its annual convention in Indianapolis this past week. Division II passed legislation welcoming colleges and universities from Mexico into the Association. It also passed legislation allowing football teams to practice three additional days, and moved the start date of women's volleyball up a week.

The State of Michigan wrapped up its sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor convicted of sexually assaulting female athletes under his care, last week, too. In a somber courtroom in Lansing, 159 girls and young women recounted horrific stories of abuse perpetrated under the guise of medical treatment.

It is ridiculous, unconscionable really, to mention the NCAA in the same sentence with Larry Nassar. Indianapolis and Lansing are about 250 miles apart, but a universe separates the business of that convention and the business of that courtroom.

I had hoped the NCAA had learned its lesson with Penn State and the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The severe penalties initially imposed upon the Nittany Lions had to be walked back, and most now agree the NCAA getting involved at all was at best an overreach of power, and at worst political grandstanding.

It should be obvious by now that the NCAA has no power beyond its obese rulebook. If it does not fit into a bylaw, well, then it just does not fit.

If the NCAA ultimately understood it had no jurisdiction in North Carolina's bogus African-American Studies program, then it certainly should recognize it has no power over a member institution employing a criminal and failing to stop his crimes.

But, sure enough, the NCAA has decided to wade into the muddy waters. It has "sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State regarding potential NCAA rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State."

I agree Michigan State needs to be held accountable for what its administration knew and when they knew it. But the NCAA is not the organization best equipped to lift that weight.

Stick to running championships, slapping the hands of cheating coaches, and figuring out the best time for volleyball to start practice. You embarrass yourself by trying to do more, and in this case, your involvement serves to trivialize the seriousness of the abuse and horror.

In time, Larry Nassar, and perhaps those who enabled him, will be judged. Just not by the NCAA.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 1-20-18


The Francis Marion University men's basketball team has seven home games, including today's contest against Flagler College, left this season. Time is running out for you to see a very special player.

Detrek Browning, a 6'0" senior guard from Columbia, South Carolina, is the Patriots' all-time leading scorer with 1,986 points. A product of Irmo High School and legendary coach Tim Whipple, Browning leads the Patriots and the Peach Belt Conference in scoring this season with 25 points a game.

He is shooting .510 from the field, and .420 from the three-point line. Those numbers are unheard of for a guard. The rest of the Patriots are collectively shooting .437 from the field and .310 from behind the arc.

Despite being called on to score, Detrek is extremely unselfish with the basketball. He dishes out three assists a game and also chips in over four rebounds. He accounts for over 36% of the offense for the 10-5 Patriots.

This week, by scoring 41 points in a thrilling 106-104 double overtime victory over the Augusta Jaguars, he broke one of the longest-standing Patriot scoring records. The old record of 40 points was set by Hank Foster against Coker College way back on February 15, 1984.

In addition to having the highest scoring average in the Peach Belt Conference, he also has the highest grade point average on our team. He will graduate with honors this May with a degree in Psychology.

So if you can come to the Smith University Center on our campus at 3:30 p.m. today, you will see a guy who doesn't look physically imposing. He is not the quickest guard out there, and certainly not the strongest.

But you will see an old-school basketball player who knows how to play and can shoot the lights out. In this age of style over substance, Detrek is substance. He is the rare player who can impose his will over any opponent.

And this old coach is going to miss him terribly when our season ends, and his college career comes to a close.

I hope you won't miss the opportunity to watch Detrek while you can. Seven more games, seven chances to watch a little magic.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 1-13-18


The Francis Marion University basketball teams are in Americus, Georgia, today as they take on the Hurricanes of Georgia Southwestern State University in Peach Belt Conference action.

After I wrote an unflattering column about Americus a few years ago many of its citizens didn't care much for the ol' ball coach from Francis Marion. In recent years I have worked very hard, and have been very successful, at repairing my reputation in this "Shining City on a Hill."

So much so that I have decided to run for mayor of Americus.

Your first thought may be to ask how a guy can coach a basketball team in Florence, South Carolina, and also serve as mayor of a small city in Georgia. The answer is fairly simple: I am a genius.

And I'm not just your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill genius. I am a very stable genius, who made very good grades at a, well, very stable and prestigious school.

Americus has had a lot of problems with people from neighboring Lee County migrating into the city. We are going to build a wall right beside Miss Lu Lu's Massage Parlor running parallel with Main Street down to Church's Fried Chicken.

Also, the mayor of Macon has been threatening to steal some of our industry. May I remind Boorish Bobby that my economic development button is larger and much more powerful than his.

The Hotel Windsor stands in the center of Americus and is a registered historic landmark. I think it would be appropriate if we renamed it the Hotel Edwards.

My track record speaks for itself. In addition to leading the Patriots to the National Championship last year, I have been instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Florence, and I am the head sous chef at Victor's on the weekends.

Just this morning there has been a rumor circulating through town that I have been colluding with South Carolina to dig up dirt on current Americus mayor, Barry Blount. Believe me; I don't need the Palmetto State's help to beat Bumbling Barry. There is no collusion!

I invited the good people of Americus to our basketball practice last night at Georgia Southwestern. We couldn't fit them all into the arena, there had to be at least 50,000 people there.

I'll be funding most of my campaign, but small donations will be appreciated. Together, let's make Americus great again!


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 12-30-17


The Francis Marion University men's and women's basketball teams are on the road today, traveling to Young Harris, Georgia, for an afternoon matchup against the Mountain Lions.

The Patriot men will be looking for their ninth consecutive win.

Of our eight wins in 2017, four have come at home, two at a neutral site, and two have been true away games. Our next two games will be on the road, and we try to even out our schedule with an even mix of home and away games.

Not the teams in the Southwest Athletic Conference. They love the road, or rather, they love the money that comes from going on the road in NCAA Division I basketball.

SWAC member Texas Southern is favored to win the conference and its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Texas Southern has opened the season with 13 straight road games and 13 straight losses. That's right; the league favorite is currently 0-13.

But that doesn't put them at the bottom of the league standings. Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Mississippi Valley State, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff are all pitching a shutout in the win column going into league play.

Small Division I's have always had to play the larger schools for the guarantee money. The going rate for the "Power 5" schools to buy a home win is $80,000-$100,000 now.

When I was the coach at Charleston Southern we had to have four guarantee games on our schedule each year, and that money went into our operating budget. Most of the time I tried to balance those games out with four of our own little guarantee games at home.

But my last year with the Buccaneers, we played six of our first seven games on the road and we had a 1-6 record going into a guarantee game at UNLV. Wouldn't you know it; we won that game and won seven out of our next eight games.

But winning those road guarantee games is a rare occurrence. Many times players get beaten down and lose so much confidence that it affects them when they finally do get to play a home game against a conference opponent.

Playing that many road games to start a season is really not fair to the players, but those small Division I teams have to pay the bills. In Division I athletics, money is king.

Besides, legendary DeMatha High School basketball coach Morgan Wooten once said, "You learn more from losing than winning."

Those guys who play in the Southwest Athletic Conference are going to be geniuses.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 12-23-17


You probably don't know Tommy Conrad. He was a standout guard for Old Dominion University in the late 70's, and we became friends when we played on the same summer league team in my hometown of Norfolk, Virginia.

He was my assistant coach at Charleston Southern University when we won the Big South Championship in 1995, and he took over as head coach when I left the next year to go to Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

He led the Buccaneers to the NCAA Tournament in 1997 and most recently has been a scout for the Washington Wizards of the NBA. In fact, he was scheduled to be at our game against Columbus State this past Tuesday because I wanted him to check out our phenomenal guard, Detrek Browning.

I think he would have been impressed with Detrek. After being held to two points in the first half, he exploded for 25 points in the second half and hit some huge shots for the Patriots down the stretch as we improved to 8-0 on the season.

But my friend Tommy Conrad could not make it to our game against Columbus State. He was attending the funeral of his youngest daughter that night at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Kailee Jean Conrad, 19, died from an apparent allergic reaction in her dorm room at the University of Kentucky on December 14. Her roommate had left to go home for the holidays and Hailee was all by herself, and she died sometime in the early hours of the evening.

My friend called me the next morning, sobbing into the phone. Mark Twain, on the death of his daughter Suzy said, "It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live."

Tommy said the pain and the grief that first day literally took his breath away. But he and his wife Cheryl, and their other two children, Liza and Kyle, have always had a strong faith and they are relying on that faith to guide them through the darkness.

In his speech to the nation at the National Cathedral after 9/11, Billy Graham said those who died would not come back to us even if they could, because of the wonder and glory of Heaven.

Kailee liked to quote Jeremiah 29:11, and found comfort in those words.

Instead of celebrating a win with my friend, we instead talked that night about the brevity and uncertainty of life. He won't see his little girl again on this earth, but his faith tells him they will be together again.

He ended our conversation with this: "I don't care how old your kids are, just give them extra hugs." And when I saw my adult daughter and son later in the week I did just that.

Hailee's death is a reminder to us all to hug our loved ones a little tighter this Christmas, and to give thanks for the greatest Christmas gift of them all.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 12-16-17


Although I did take note of his son's Chinese shoplifting expedition, I have tried to avoid thinking about the patriarch of the Ball basketball family, LaVar Ball, and the Big Baller Brand.

Kind of like when you avoid thinking of a hemorrhoid. You hope if you just ignore it, it will go away.

LaVar Ball may not be going away, but his two sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, certainly are. It seems their father signed them up to play professional basketball in Lithuania starting in January.

They are going to play professional basketball in the Lithuanian Basketball League for the club Prienai Vytautas. Prienai is a small town of about 10,000 people located on the Neman River.

Believe it or not, I have been there. About 15 years ago, when I was the coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, I developed a coaching contact in Lithuania.

When my wife and I had to go to England for a wedding, I decided to fly from London to the capital city of Vilnius on Lithuanian Airlines. I still have a sugar packet and a napkin from that flight to prove it.

My coaching contact picked me up from the airport and drove me around the country to see young basketball prospects. I remember the starkness; it looked like a stereotypical Cold War country.

There were a lot of people hitchhiking along the roadway. The gyms were small and dark. The basketball players were talented.

I went to the home of one of these players and his father did not speak any English, but I understood he wanted to toast my arrival with a shot of whisky. So we toasted my arrival, and we toasted my good health, and before long I was toasted.

But that night I remember we went to see some professional players, the type guys LiAngelo, 19, and LaMelo, 16, will be playing with and against in the Lithuanian Basketball League.

They were men. Hairy chested men. They played rough and they played dirty.

LaMelo doesn't even have any hair on his face yet. LiAngelo has a little goatee, but believe me, he and his brother are going to have a hard time lining up with these hairy chested men.

These two kids will be a long way from California. Give them a week or two and I bet they will have a greater appreciation for the United States of America.

And where will their father be? Will he join his sons in Lithuania?

If he does it will be interesting to see the Lithuanian treatment for hemorrhoids.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 12-9-17


The Francis Marion University men's basketball team enters the exam break with a 5-0 (6-0 if you count our exhibition win at UT-Chattanooga) overall record. We don't play any games and practice very little while the players take their first semester exams.

There won't be a second semester for players who don't meet minimum NCAA academic standards. Basically, they have to pass nine credits in the fall to remain eligible in the spring.

That's why I smiled when I saw the advertisement for Florence-Darlington Technical College's Holiday Term. They are offering six transferable classes beginning on December 14 and ending on December 31.

These mini-term classes have always been extremely popular with college coaches and the student-athletes who may need a credit or two to remain eligible for competition. I know I have always kept a file of these offerings just in case.

Here is a post card from Northwest Missouri State. Adams State in Colorado has always had a nice variety of classes. And now I can add Florence-Darlington Tech to my list.

Having coached for a long time, I of course have a wonderful mini-term story. It involves my point guard, Doren Chapman, when I was the head coach at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton) in Wilson, North Carolina.

Doren was from inner-city Baltimore and to this day one of the greatest players I ever coached. He could have played at any school in the country, but needed an NAIA institution because of his grades.

After the fall semester of 1986, Doren was one credit short of being eligible for the spring. We needed to find a one credit mini-term course and we needed to find it fast.

Remember, this was before on-line classes so finding something that worked was a huge challenge. But after many hours of research my assistant coach called to say he found it!

Appalachian State was offering a one credit ski class in Boone the week after Christmas. A ski class?  Doren had seen snow up in Baltimore but he didn't know a ski from a fishing pole.

But we bought him some gloves and one of those knit hats with the ear flaps and off he went to Boone. And he stayed for a week and he must have done OK because he received an A in the class and did not break any bones.

On the last day of class my assistant coach drove to Boone to pick Doren up, and they both drove directly to our game at UNC-Wilmington. It was December 30, 1986, and the Atlantic Christian Bulldogs upset the Seahawks, 62-59, that night with Doren Chapman leading the way.

It was such an upset at the time that Sports Illustrated, in its January 12, 1987 edition, mentioned it under "The Christian Question" on page 85. You can look it up.

So if you happen to see a tall guy walking down West Lucas after Christmas, maybe wearing a knit hat with ear flaps, he won't be looking for a ski slope but very well could be looking for Intro to Sociology.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 12-2-17


You may not have heard there is a new tax bill our elected officials are pushing through the United States House and Senate. It is football season after all.

But while this tax bill might not affect your favorite college football team, it certainly will affect the students actually sitting in classroom seats.

In the United States today, there is about $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loan debt held by 44 million borrowers. Those borrowers pay some hefty interest on that debt, and this new tax bill eliminates the student loan interest deduction.

Additionally, universities often waive tuition for graduate students in exchange for students working as teaching assistants. The new House bill would view that as income and taxes would be due accordingly.

There are some who debate the value of a college education. However, to paraphrase the infamous quote of Chico Escuela on Saturday Night Live, college has been "berry, berry good to me."

But there can be no debate about one thing. There are a lot of college football coaches being paid a lot of money not to coach college football.

Texas A&M is paying Kevin Sumlin $10.4 million not to coach its football team. They have to pay him within the next 60 days.

Arizona State has a little longer to come up with the $12.3 million it owes Todd Graham not to coach its football team.

UCLA owes recently fired Jim Mora $12.2 million, but if he gets another job that amount will be offset by any future earnings. He should apply to be a starter at his local golf course, where most of the salary comes in the form of free playing privileges.

Nebraska's Mike Riley will be paid $6.6 million not to coach the Cornhuskers.

Bret Bielema gets $5.9 million to fish for Arkansas' famous catfish on Saturday afternoons instead of roaming the sidelines for the Razorbacks.

It's not just head coaches who can afford gold plated corn hole sets to help while away the weekends. If Florida does not retain defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, the Gators will cut him a check for $2.15 million.

If the IRS will just collect the taxes due on all the money being paid to out-of-work football coaches, the country should have plenty of money.

At least for a few months until our universities start firing their basketball coaches.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 11-25-17

You can sum up this sport in two words: You never know.

Lou Duva


Lou Duva was a legendary boxing trainer, but he could have been talking about most sports and especially about college football. It's why Clemson fans will be munching on the antacids tonight when their beloved Tigers take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Palmetto Bowl.

Clemson is a two-touchdown favorite in this 115th meeting between the in-state rivals. Both are ranked in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings, Clemson at #3 and South Carolina at #24, but the Tigers are defending national champions and have won the last three games in this bitter rivalry.

They should win again. But the game is at Williams-Brice Stadium, under the lights, and the atmosphere will be electric.

They should win again. But it's a rivalry game and rivalry games take on a life of their own.

They should win again. But what about that #%$* Syracuse game?

I guess it wouldn't be the biggest upset in the history of college football if the Gamecocks should win tonight. Earlier this season, Howard traveled to UNLV as 43-point underdogs and beat the Rebels 43-40.

Baylor was favored by 33 points against Liberty a few weeks ago. The Flames upset them, 48-45, and cashed a big guarantee check, too. Jerry Falwell had to be smiling, somewhere.

And it is the 10-year anniversary of Appalachian State going up to the Big House and upsetting Michigan.

But Tiger fans, don't even think about any of that. Good Lord, you beat these guys by about 50 points last year. You should be brimming with confidence!

Plus, it was Dabo's birthday this week. His mom made him his favorite chicken n' dumplings. This will be his 100th win as the head coach of the Clemson Tigers.

And, most importantly, you are right in the hunt for another national championship.

There is no way the Gamecocks would spoil all that. Would they?


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 11-18-17

There is no getting around it. The 45th President of the United States just loves to tweet.

He will tweet in the morning. He will tweet in the evening. He will tweet all over this land.

He will tweet out danger. He will tweet out warning. He will tweet out love between my brothers and my sisters…ok, ok, now I am losing my head.

But this week Donald Trump took the time to tweet about the three UCLA basketball players who were detained in China for shoplifting. They had the opportunity to shoplift in China because UCLA was there to play Georgia Tech in a basketball game sponsored by the e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba.

"Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you, Mr. President? They were headed for 10 years in jail."

And just when I thought pigs couldn't fly, the three UCLA basketball players, at a press conference held on the UCLA campus the day after their return, did indeed thank the President for helping in their expedited release.

One of the three, LiAngelo Ball, is the son of Lavar Ball, patriarch of the basket Ball family and founder of the Big Baller Brand of shoes and apparel. He likes to tweet, too, but prefers to verbalize his ignorant musings.

At the time of his son's arrest, he commented, "Everybody is making it a big deal…it ain't a big deal."

So I was shocked when the three players humbly accepted responsibility for their actions, admitted how stupid an act it was, and thanked the many people who did indeed keep their collective butts out of a Shanghai prison.

But leave it to UCLA coach Steve Alford and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero to bring me back to reality. When discussing the punishment for these young men, Coach Alford said the three would be suspended "indefinitely."

Where have we heard that before? That's right, less than a year ago Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski suspended star guard Grayson Allen "indefinitely" for being a serial tripper out on the court.

That indefinite suspension lasted one game, a game Duke lost to Virginia Tech.  And Coach Krzyzewski, a guy who is supposed to be a master coach and educator, squandered an opportunity for real teaching.

Let's hope Steve Alford and all the good folks at UCLA don't squander this opportunity for teaching. I hope they understand their responsibility not only to the students at their own institution, but to the young people of this country and to others around the world.

They are not off to a good start. A year's suspension would have been a clear message. An indefinite suspension whispers so softly I can hardly hear it.

But we will wait and see. When I know more I will be sure to send out a tweet.


FMU men's basketball coach Gary Edwards' column for 11-11-17


The kind of events that once took place will by reason of human nature take place again.

Thucydides, Greek Historian


On November 22, 2003, I wrote a column for the Indiana (PA) Gazette which included the following paragraph:

You see, there is a lot of cheating going on in Division I basketball. The big name coaches have devised a system where they are insulated from the cheating, but do not be naïve enough to think it does not go on. A booster funnels money into an ATM account. A car dealer arranges special financing for a fancy SUV. Players benefit, but so do the summer AAU coaches and the unseemly "handlers" who influence where top recruits go to college.

Five years later, in a column about the NCAA, I wrote:

For 43 years Sonny Vaccaro has been one of the most powerful men in college basketball. Known as the "Godfather", Vaccaro signed college basketball coaches to lucrative shoe deals and started grassroots summer basketball programs for Nike and Adidas. When asked how many of the elite coaches in this country built their programs honestly, Vaccaro replied, "I guess three coaches, maybe four…I'm not 100 percent sure about one guy."

These two excerpts are from The Columns of Coach Gary Edwards, now available from Amazon, and show while the names may have changed, the cheating never has. Remember Dave Bliss, Jim Harrick, and Kentucky assistant Duane Casey? Just replace them with Rick Pitino, Josh Pastner, and Auburn assistant Chuck Person.

Back in the early 1990's, when I was the head coach at Charleston Southern University, a transfer from Clemson came to my office one day and asked me, "Coach, when do we get our Sunday money?" It seems while he was a basketball player at Clemson he, and selected other players, would get an envelope filled with a couple of hundred dollars every Sunday.

The young man was extremely disappointed when I informed him not only did we not have any Sunday money, we didn't have any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday money, either.

Yes, Virginia, there has always been cheating going on in college athletics.

The difference now is the federal government is involved in investigating this cesspool. In the weeks leading up to this college basketball season high profile assistants have been indicted on federal bribery, fraud, and conspiracy charges.

It is one thing to be investigated by the Keystone Kops of the NCAA and be suspended for a few games. It is another thing entirely to be investigated by the FBI and spend a few years at Sing Sing.

That is why I believe this latest scandal will lead to real change and perhaps the long overdue dismantling of the NCAA. It will help the coaches who do it the right way (I would bet my mortgage Clemson Coach Brad Brownell doesn't hand out Sunday money) and expose the imposters.

Speaking of things taking place again, on January 9, 1986, I coached the Bulldogs of Atlantic Christian College to an 82-70 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne. I hope to do the same tonight with my Francis Marion Patriots.