After 40 total years of coaching, Tommy Edwards decided it was time to hang up the whistle.
Edwards announced his retirement on Tuesday as the women’s basketball coach at Catawba Valley Community College.
Edwards hopes he achieved one goal in his long tenure as coach.
“You look back and hope somewhere along the line you’ve helped some kids,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ve benefitted from me being in either their educational or athletic environment. That’s what you hope for.”
Before making his decision public on Tuesday, Edwards reflected on his long coaching career.
That journey started in 1973.
After graduating from N.C. State with a degree in Mathematics, Edwards started coaching football, seventh- and eight-grade basketball and helped with the baseball team at Grandview Middle School in Hickory.
An avid lover of and competitor in baseball in his youth, Edwards slowly started to drift towards the basketball court.
“As time went on, I got a little older. I guess my love for basketball just sort of took over,” Edwards said. “Basketball was inside. You didn’t have to worry about it being cold or hot outside. You didn’t have to go out and drag the field. With basketball, you might have had to roll the goals down and most of the time, you didn’t have to do that. Basketball was lower maintenance than baseball was. I just began loving basketball. I played a lot of basketball with buddies in the evenings.”
Edwards stayed at Grandview for one year and moved to Newton-Conover Middle School.
He coached and taught at NCMS for 10 years before making another career jump.
“I had always wanted to teach high school math,” he said. “My daughters were going to Bunker Hill (High School). One summer, they told me there was a math opening at Bunker Hill and asked if I would go and apply for the job.”
After talking to principal Steve Hylton, Edwards was hired and given the JV boys basketball coaching job.
He would spent a year coaching the junior varsity boys program at BHHS before another interesting opportunity came about.
Terry Sipe decided to retire after the 1982-83 season as the Bunker Hill varsity girls basketball coach.
Edwards was instantly intrigued by the opening and applied for the job.
“I had always coached boys, but I looked at it as an opportunity to get my foot in the door with varsity high school coaching,” he said. “When Terry retired, I applied and interviewed for the job. I looked at it as a stepping stone to a boy’s coaching job, but I got involved with it. Coaching girls was different from coaching boys. I had success. I had some really good players at Bunker Hill. I just decided that is where I was going to stay with girls basketball.”
Edwards would spend the next 23 years guiding the Lady Bears basketball program.
During that time, Bunker Hill was 418-199 on the court, and Edwards won conference coach of the year six times.
Edwards said of all the teams he coached, the 1988-89 Bunker Hill squad has a special place in his heart.
“We did not win the conference and finished third behind Bandys and Newton-Conover,” he said of the 1988-89 team. “We got on a roll at the end of the season. That was the year our girls played Bandys in the Western Regional at Lenoir-Rhyne and our boys team played Newton-Conover in the Western Regional finals at Lenoir-Rhyne. We both won and went to the state championship game. My girls team lost to Clinton, who had two young ladies that were just phenomenal. They were both stars for their schools. That year was probably a year I’ll never forget.”
Edwards retired from coaching high school basketball in 2006, but the love and passion for the game remained.
After finding out about the creation of a women’s basketball program at CVCC, Edwards applied for the Lady Bucs’ head coaching position.
He spent the 2008 season recruiting for the new program, and started coaching the Lady Bucs in 2009 with his new players.
“Starting a team from scratch was very exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “I loved going out and recruiting.”
During his four seasons as women’s basketball coach at Catawba Valley Community College, the Lady Bucs were 82-30.
The best season for CVCC under Edwards was this past winter, where the Lady Bucs went 30-1.
“This was the dream season here at CVCC,” he said. “We won our first 30 games. We beat Louisburg twice during the regular season. We lost to Louisburg in the regional finals. This year was sort of a surprise. We knew we had recruited some good players, but as a coach, part of your job is to get those kids to mesh together into a team. It happened. I guess it was a good way to bow out with a great season.”
Despite leaving the program after this season, Edwards is optimistic for the future of the Lady Bucs on the basketball court.
“Whoever the coach is next season, I’m excited for the team because there will be some good players coming back,” he said. “I think the potential is there for an outstanding season for next year and down the road.”
Edwards is going to spend most of his retirement with his three children, six grandchildren, but also plans to make some time for the golf course.
“You miss a lot of things your own kids did,” Edwards said of his long coaching tenure. “Now, I’m at the point where I have grandkids that are athletes. I’m ready to spend more time with my family — my wife, my kids and my grandkids. I feel like with 40 years coaching you know when it is time. I am excited about retirement. I’m hoping to travel a little bit with my wife. I’ve got some exciting things to look forward to.”