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SNOW HILL — For a program that has had exhaustive experience in conducting searches for new head coaches, the Greene Central High varsity boys basketball program put a little more force behind turning off the vacancy switch this time.
Well, make that a lot more force.
Coming off the most successful run in its 56-year history that included last season’s trip to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A title game, Greene Central introduced its 16th head coach in program history Friday afternoon.
Shortly before 1:30 p.m., Rams legend Theodore “Blue” Edwards emerged from the hallway and onto Rouse Family Foundation Court, returning to the place where he launched a career that took him to Louisburg College, East Carolina University, and ultimately, the NBA. His No. 50 jersey sits in the trophy case just outside the gym entrance. With deference to Ed Carraway in the 1960s, Greene County’s most famous hoops export had come full circle.
“It’s ‘The House That Blue Built,’” Greene Central athletic director David Bryant said. “And he’s probably the most famous basketball guy we’ve got in Greene County. It’s great to have him here.
Edwards is now 52 years of age, which means the backboards are now safe from his rim-rattling assaults. He’s coached his twin daughters on the AAU circuit, but never on the high school level until now. Why was the time right for Edwards, an individual who has never sought the limelight, to become the face of Greene Central boys basketball?
“I think everything in my life is about coaching,” Edwards said. “I’m a praying young man, and I always pray that the opportunity comes at the right time; that I’ll be prepared for it. If I could have wrote my own story or chosen my own destination, it may not be here today. But I thank God that this is the opportunity that opened up for me. It’s the right time because I want it and the community is receptive to me being back here. So I hope that it’s going to be a great marriage.”
Edwards, the No. 21 overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz, replaces Charles Harris, who is leaving Snow Hill to take over the new South Garner Titans program in his hometown. Harris was 84-28 in his four seasons, with a trip to the 2-A East Regional final in 2016-17 prior to the Rams’ first title game appearance last year.
“Coach Harris did a tremendous job with this basketball team,” Edwards said. “So it’s not broken. We have a lot of talent coming back. We have to develop some new pieces. The past two seasons have been really good for them. They’ve tasted what it’s like to get the championship-caliber games. They know how much hard work they have to put in.”
Assuming no defections from the rising senior class, Greene Central will bring back Imajae Dodd, Donte Johnson, A.J. Dupree, Hysaan Hudson and Tayon Edwards. Blue Edwards said he’s already spoken with Dodd and Johnson, the former garnering Division I recruiting interest from a number of schools, including Edwards’ alma mater of ECU.
“I’m going to count on them and lean on them a lot,” Edwards said of Dodd and Johnson. “And so, I wanted to get their input on what they’re looking for as their next coach, and I want them to get to know me and what my expectations for them will be.”
Edwards said he intends to employ an “up-and-down pace” that can change defenses and dictate to opponents how the game will be played. He honed his prep craft under the eye of Lewis Godwin, who served as the Rams’ for over a decade in combining two separate stints and was present Friday.
“I remember running up and down the highways in Walstonburg playing on the dirt courts and coming here,” Edwards said. “This is where my basketball experience grew. I had a great high school coach who taught me a lot. He was one of the first people that told me I could be an NBA player. This area is special in that it’s not too overwhelming, and if you’re humble, patient and work hard, good things will happen.”
Boneree Johnson, a teammate of Edwards’ and a current Greene Central assistant, is expected to remain on staff. Edwards plans to approach the job with a “year-to-year commitment,” but would like to see the current crop of middle school players and junior varsity performers through to graduation.
“There’s a few guys I’ve seen at the middle school and even on the JV team. I would like to stay here and see their development and see them through graduation. So, it will be a year-by-year commitment, but hopefully can be as long as five years. Unless something else great comes out there that’s too great to turn down, and right now, I’m not looking for that. Right now, I’m focused on being here as long as I’m needed.”
He’ll immediately be thrust into a rugged 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference that includes the likes of Kinston, Goldsboro, West Craven, North Lenoir and South Lenoir. Even so, the Rams have no intention of backsliding.
“He’s going to hopefully keep us where we are,” Bryant said.