I am being inducted into the Virginia Wesleyan College Athletic Hall of Fame today. Three other former Marlins are being inducted; all are younger than me and all were significantly more athletic.
I lettered in cross country, basketball and golf for four years at Wesleyan. I was an adequate jack of all trades, but I loved basketball.
Don Forsyth was my coach. He coached all three sports and was also the school’s athletic director. Don Forsyth and I saw a lot of each other.
My freshman year we didn’t even have a gym to play in. We practiced and played at neighboring Norfolk Academy. I played a lot but thought I should be playing more.
I have said many times that Gary Edwards the coach would have probably kicked Gary Edwards the player off his team. Like most high school players, I had an inflated opinion of my talents.
But Coach Forsyth was patient with me, amazingly patient. He was, as his bio said, an easy-going Kansan, and a very good basketball coach.
Not only did we open up the beautiful Cunningham Gymnasium on campus, but we won back-to-back Dixie Conference Championships my junior and senior years. I had matured and was the happy sixth-man on a very good team.
Coach Forsyth knew I wanted to coach and after graduation offered me the position of assistant varsity and head junior varsity coach and sports information director. I was barely 22 years old.
Having the opportunity to coach my own team at such a young age was invaluable. Learning under such a good coach and a better man shaped my entire professional life.
Coach Forsyth is retired and lives in Pennsylvania now, but he will be at the induction luncheon in Norfolk, Va., today. I, unfortunately, won’t.
The late Jim Valvano once said, “Don’t ever miss a game. You don’t want them to find out they can do without you.”
So I will be on the sidelines for the 854th time as a head collegiate basketball coach when my Francis Marion Patriots take on the 13th ranked Pacers of USC Aiken at 3:30 p.m. on our campus.
It will be a tough game but I have coached in tougher. I will try to use all the coaching tools an easy-going Kansan taught me so many years ago.
And after the game, win or lose, I will try to be as good and kind to my players as he was to me.
E-mail Francis Marion University men’s basketball coach Gary Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org.