|Mark Edwards has been synonymous with the Washington University in St. Louis men's basketball program and has been part of every season it's taken the floor since the 1960s.
Photo by Larry Radloff, d3photography.com
When Mark Edwards graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, in 1969, the men's basketball program was an afterthought, so much so that it was dropped completely after the 1969-70 season, with Edwards as an assistant coach.
More than a decade later, Edwards was an assistant at Washington State University, and got a call from Washington University's athletic director in 1981, asking if he wanted to restart the program. Edwards took that job, and has held it for the past 37 years. Until now, when he is announcing he will retire.
Mark Edwards led his alma mater's men's basketball program from obscurity to two Division III national championships. In 2007, the Bears emerged from the infamous "Bracket of Death" to reach the Final Four in Salem, Virginia, losing by two points to Virginia Wesleyan in the semifinals. The following year, even with future All-America starting point guard Sean Wallis sidelined, the Bears rode Final Four Most Outstanding Player Troy Ruths to the national title. And in 2009, even with the defending champion target on their back, Edwards' Bears got it done, cruising to a 29-2 mark and a second national crown.
The Bears compiled a record of 685-293 over his 37 seasons. The team qualified for the NCAA Tournament 20 times, including a first-round exit this season. Wash U has won the University Athletic Association 15 times in men's basketball since conference play began in 1987-88. Edwards has coached seven players to a total of 10 D3hoops.com All-America selections, including Ruths being named 2008 D3hoops.com Player of the Year.
"I have had a tremendous 37 years at Washington University and am extremely grateful for the support extended to me by the university and athletic administration through this time," said Edwards. "I have also been fortunate to have been associated with outstanding student-athletes, assistant coaches, colleagues, parents and alumni. I thank them for all the tremendous support they have provided. They have fueled our successes and generated many memories."
Edwards was inducted into the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. He also will receive the 2018 National Association of Basketball Coaches Division III Outstanding Service Award at the NABC Division III Coaches' meeting on March 30 in San Antonio.
"Mark Edwards is the epitome of what a basketball coach should be - more than a coach — he is a mentor, a teacher, a second father and always readily available for former student-athletes, friends, faculty and staff," said athletic director Anthony J. Azama. "He has built a premier program that is not just defined by wins, but also by developing young men through their four-year experience who in turn are better prepared for the next 40 years of their professional life. A living example of the WashU Way and why Washington University is such a special place."