Born: May 3, 1947, Peoria, IL
Coached For: Washington State University (1972-81), Washington University (St. Louis) (1982-Present)
Washington University in St. Louis men’s basketball coach Mark Edwards comes into his office every day with the expectation that something new and special is about to happen. This has motivated Edwards for 45 years, including the past 34 at his alma mater.“Whether it is a student-athlete that becomes interested in the University, a stimulating conversation with one of our players, or a big win, everyday brings something new and exciting for the future of Bears’ Basketball,” Edwards said.
With an overall record of 685-293 (.697), Edwards is the winningest coach in school history. He has guided the Bears to a school-record 34-consecutive winning seasons, 15 University Athletic Association (UAA) conference titles, 21 NCAA Tournament appearances and the 2008 and 2009 NCAA Division III National Championship. Edwards ranks 5th all-time in NCAA Division III and sixth in Missouri for college wins at any level.
Guiding Wash U to its first national championship in 2008 was a longtime dream and passion for Edwards, but has it sunk in yet? “When you chase your ultimate dream and you get there, it takes some time before it really sinks in,” Edwards said. “It was a surreal experience. I hope everybody has the opportunity to accomplish something in life that they really covet.”
The following year Edwards guided the Bears to a second straight national title, joining an illustrious group of three NCAA Division III schools that have gone back-to-back. “That was special,” Edwards added. “Winning the second time knowing that everyone was gunning for us. But we did it. Right up to the end, playing the top teams in the country, we had to earn it.”
With two national championships, three National Coach of the Year Awards and 627 victories, Edward doesn’t measure success on wins and loses. “Most importantly, it is essential that the student athletes also had a great experience for the season,” Edwards said. “The experience that the student-athletes and the coaches have is the yardstick by which you can measure the success of a season.”
Edwards doesn’t recall a purposeful choice to be a basketball coach at a young age. He played four years of basketball for the Bears and graduated in 1969. Edwards went to graduate school at Wash U in psychology, but was drafted into the military prior to completion of his thesis research. After a brief stint in the Army, he spent one season as a graduate assistant coach at Washington State University, before being elevated by George Raveling to assistant coach, a position he held for nine years.
“Once I got out of Army, it was like starting over. I had an opportunity to do something in an area that I loved, which is basketball,” Edwards said. “I did not quite understand how it would work, or where it would take me. Here I am 45 years later, and still passionate about the profession”
Edwards will work the sidelines in 2015-16 for his 35th season at Wash U, a place where he found his niche a long, long time ago. “The school fits my philosophy and I am fortunate to work with administrators who value the role of athletics in the education system,” Edwards said. “And I work with student-athletes who look at basketball as being a positive experience that contributes to their career and the quality of life. They understand and embrace the commitment, sacrifice and hard work necessary to achieve their dream of a National Championship. They believe in themselves and believe in what they are doing. I have always felt respected, by our players and the university. You can’t ask for a better environment than that to achieve professional success.
From Chris Mitchell