Young comes back to old town

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Former Suffolk High coach to lead Warriors

By Jason Norman

Back in 1985, John Yeates High School junior varsity basketball coach Phil Braswell sat in the Yeates bleachers, watching his school’s varsity team battle Suffolk High.

Email newsletter signup

In front of the Red Raiders’ bench, he noticed coach Ed Young rallying the troops. In just his second year of leading the Raiders, Young had snared the Tidewater District Coach of the Year award. In the midst of his second year in Suffolk, Young’s team had upset the perennial powerhouse in John F. Kennedy High, which would give them a spark that Suffolk had never seen before. Braswell didn’t know it yet, but Young would eventually take his team to the 1987 state title, and his 1988 team would be the last in area history to average 100 points a game.

After the game, Braswell and Young talked about their respective school sports programs. By then, Braswell knew that Young was the type of coach that he’d want on his team.

Now, nearly two decades later, the two have the chance. After Franklin Chatman resigned as the Warriors’ basketball coach after last season to take on the job as the school’s assistant principal, Braswell, now the River athletic director, knew who to call.

It wasn’t easy at first. After taking over a Green Run team that had won 24 games from 1995 to 2002, Young helped the Virginia Beach school to a 18-game winning season, which got them second place in the Beach district and a berth in the regionals. In the regional tourney last February, the Stallions defeated Lakeland in the first round before falling to eventual state titlist Woodside. Not surprisingly, Young had been named the Beach Coach of the Year, and co-Region Coach of the Year with Woodside head John Richardson.

&uot;I knew that he was in the area, and that he had some Suffolk ties,&uot; said Braswell, &uot;so I asked if there was any interest in him coming in. I knew he’d built a great relationship with the kids at Green Run, so it wouldn’t be an easy decision for him.&uot;

Coming to a school that’s won the last three Southeastern District titles and last two District tournaments would certainly be a new experience for Young; he’s used to starting programs in need of help.

His first coaching experience came as a sophomore at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, forming a junior high program at St. Francis High School, the alma mater where Young played varsity ball for four years.

&uot;I wasn’t getting a dime,&uot; said Young, who also played ball at Pitt-Bradford Junior College before transferring to Lock Haven, &uot;but I was in heaven to have my own team.&uot;

After graduating from Lock Haven in 1980 with a degree in physical education, emphasis on coaching, Young headed to Clearfield High, where was an assistant coach on both the freshman boys’ team and girls varsity team, while still coaching at St. Francis. Then, three years later, he first came to town.

Checking over a placement service, he saw that Suffolk High School was looking for a physical education teacher and head basketball coach. Young got out a map, and searched over southeastern Virginia.

&uot;I saw that Suffolk was right next to Virginia Beach, and I knew I had to get the job,&uot; he said. &uot;I’d never been close to the ocean before.&uot;

When he interviewed with then-Suffolk principal Billy Hill, Young thought that he’d be trying for &uot;just&uot; the teaching and basketball coaching jobs. By the time the interview was over, however, he was the new athletic director, boys head basketball coach, girls assistant basketball coach, and head tennis coach.

&uot;I’d played tennis in recreation, but never competitive,&uot; he said. No matter; the Red Raider tennis squad went to state for the next three years.

But basketball didn’t get off to as smooth a start. His first year, the boys went 5-15. The second, they finished 12-10. It was in the second season, however, that the turning point came in the form of the JFK victory.

Up until that point, he estimates, the team had gone roughly 10-27. Afterward, they raced to 80-8. In 1986, the team went 21-5, and made it to the state tournament. The next year, it went 26-1, and brought home a state title and Young another Coach of the Year award. In Young’s farewell tour of 1988, the Raiders nabbed a 25-2 season, good enough for a trip to the state semifinals.

&uot;We used a man-to-man style, and we ran with every opponent,&uot; he said. &uot;I played nine, 10, 11 kids a game, and every kid started at least one game. That’s a philosophy I still uphold.&uot;

As the 1980s wound down, Young went over to Norfolk’s Norview High School. His first year, the Pilots finished at .500, while Suffolk went back to the state tournament. But Young wasn’t disappointed; he knew that it was only time.

&uot;Norview routinely lost about half its team to grades,&uot; he said. &uot;In my first year, we lost three players. In the next four years, we lost two.&uot; In his six years as head Pilot, Norview finished in the top 10 state rankings four times, and helped its coach win a pair of Eastern District Coach of the Year awards.

Then Young headed back near his home, and spent two years leading the Altoona High School team. But he always wanted to coach in college, and got his wish in 1996, hired at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Penn. As an assistant in 1997, Young watched his team set a school record with 25 wins. As the head coach in 1999, they came within a game of the National Association Intercollegiate Athletics National Tournament (equivalent to the NCAA Division II). On that team was Nansemond River alumni Leroy Skinner, whom Young had recruited. This winter, Skinner will be an assistant on Young’s coaching staff.

After leaving the school, Young got a stint in the pro leagues, helping the Gotham City Knights (New York City) to second place in the now-defunct National Rookie League in the summer of 2000. After a year of assistant coaching at Quinnipiac, a Division I college in Hamden, Conn. (in which Young’s squads got to battle national powerhouses such as Boston College, St. John’s and Uconn), the coach came back to Virginia.

In his first year at Green Run, the Stallions won three games. Young told them not to worry.

&uot;The first year, I’d lost two key players to grades,&uot; he said. &uot;My second year, we didn’t lose anyone. I went with a lot of young players.&uot; His strategy worked; the squad became one of the biggest Cinderella teams in recent history last season, blasting through the district to reach regionals. Soon after, he heard about the coaching job at River.

&uot;When I first left Suffolk,&uot; he said, &uot;my ego wanted me to leave, not my heart. Suffolk had a great program with people I loved working with. They have a great administration, a great faculty, and most of all, a great community. I should never have left.&uot;

Including Braswell. When his old friend called, Young said, &uot;I told him that he didn’t have to sell me on Suffolk. I’d love to come back.&uot;

He knows that the Warriors have quite a legacy to follow.

&uot;Winning 20 games a year won’t impress anyone,&uot; he said. &uot;With eight other schools in this district, I don’t see anyone throwing out the red carpet to welcome us. We’re going to have to work for every win to get where we’re used to being, and hopefully to regionals and state.&uot;

Like Chatman, who didn’t lose a starter to academic trouble the past three seasons, Young’s emphasis is on school before ball.

&uot;That’s one of the basics with me,&uot; he said. &uot;If a kid doesn’t get it done in the classroom, he won’t play for me.

&uot;With the support of everybody, we may bring home another state title,&uot; he said, recalling River’s state title victory in. &uot;We may not win every game, but we’ll be prepared to win every game.&uot;