Nansemond River boys basketball coach Ed Young achieves 500 wins

Published 8:47 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Matthew Hatfield

Contributing writer


On the final day of January, Nansemond River boys basketball coach Ed Young accomplished a milestone that he could’ve never imagined when he graduated from Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania back in 1980 with a degree in physical education.

After all, who could’ve seen Young becoming the first in Suffolk history to 500 victories when he went just 5-15 his first season at Suffolk High, followed by 12-10 the next? 

From there, it took off as the Red Raiders rolled to a Group A State Championship in 1987. The 1988 team remains the last in VHSL history to average more than 100 points per game.

Flash forward to his 33rd season on the sidelines, and Young – the only man to be named Coach of the Year in the Beach District, Eastern District and Southeastern District – has joined the exclusive 500-win club after leading the guiding the Warriors to an 81-48 win at Deep Creek that moved his current squad to 12-5 overall on the 2022-23 campaign.

“It means a heck of a lot. You have to play a lot of games to win 500,” Young said. “I had a host of players here from the past, some of which drove from long distances to see it.”

“It means I’ve had great players that did what I want, assistant coaches who worked their butts off for me, Principals and AD’s that believed in me, managers who did the dirty work, and fans that believed in me even when we were losing games,” Young said.

One of those players in attendance on Tuesday night was Tony Smith, his State Player of the Year from the famed title winning team at Suffolk High who went on to become the all-time leading scorer at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina.

“I always thought it could be possible he’d get to this far depending on how long he stayed in the game, and I knew Coach Young loved the game.  What makes him so special to me and the guys he coached is how much he cared for us,” Smith said. “I’ll take you back to when I was a sophomore and he saw the potential in me. He made it possible for me to go to one of the elite basketball camps, which at the time was five-star.  I’m out there with Alonzo Mourning and Billy Owens. None of that happens if Coach Young didn’t have pull. He’s a man that if he says something he’s going to do it. He bleeds basketball, and I love him for that.”

Nansemond River barely trailed in its district tilt with the Hornets, coached by Young’s former varsity assistant and junior varsity coach, Craig Frost, in Chesapeake. The Warriors used a 10-0 run to go up 11 midway through the first quarter and took a 33-17 advantage into the second period.

“The kids were excited about it and told me we’re going to get you your win. We’ve been playing up and down lately. They wanted to come out with a bang because Deep Creek got us here last year. We had a lead at half-time, squandered it away and they beat us. A lot of people contributed,” Young said. “I hated to do it against a good friend of mine in Craig, but it’s just the way the numbers turned out.  I did want to do it at home, but we’ll take the win. I wasn’t thinking about 500. I was just thinking about that next win to stay in that playoff race.”

To begin the third quarter, Nansemond River expanded its lead with a 12-0 run as Deep Creek misfired on its first 13 shots.

Senior forward Chris Hayes bunched 12 of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter to go with eight rebounds and five steals. Senior Jalen Duckett and freshman Jeremiah Broome scored 14 points apiece. Junior Saleem Williams posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Devin Gaines chipped in nine points, five rebounds, five steals and four assists.

“We didn’t want them to hang around long,” said Duckett, who had six assists and four of the team’s season-high 23 steals on a night dedicated to Young.  “It feels good to know he’s happy because it’s a big accomplishment. For us to be able to do it, that means a lot. Now our focus is to try to win as many games as possible and make the playoffs.”

Young is now in rare company with a select few to have 500-plus victories in Hampton Roads history when it comes boys basketball, joining Jack Baker (746 wins at Maury), Walter Brower (589 wins at Hampton) and Bill Cochrane (556 wins at Salem, Green Run and Kempsville).

“You talk about some guys with Jack over 700 wins,” Young said in digesting the facts. “Jack and Walt did it at once place, Bill did it a few places, and I’ve been at a few places. I’ve coached against all of them, too. Wow.”  

Young said that when one mentions names like these, it’s big.  

“Some may not think it’s a big deal, but it’s hard to get that many wins,” he said. “Somebody told me the other day if you go undefeated, you’d have to go 20 years of that to get 500 wins. We’ve never had undefeated, but I’ve been in it a while and hopefully can go a few more years.”

With stops at Green Run High in Virginia Beach and Norview High in Norfolk along with at the collegiate level – including Division I Quinnipiac as an assistant during the 1990s – Young has gotten around. While the sport has changed, his approach has remained pretty consistent.

To those that know him best, it comes as no surprise he’s won so many games, 278 of them coming since 2004 at Nansemond River.

“When they warm-up, the routine is the same from 84-88. Coach hasn’t really changed, and that can be hard on the kids because the game has changed somewhat with the generation.  Discipline is going to be there,” said Smith. “He didn’t care if you were Tony Smith or the 12th man on the team. It’s going to be done Coach’s way or no way.”

When will Young hang up the big whistle and fade off into the sunset?  He’s not sure, even though it’s a question he fields a lot, particularly as this achievement loomed.

“Now that it has happened, it’ll hit me later,” Young said. “Probably in retirement someday, but I’m not ready to retire. It’s what I love doing and it’s in my passion.”

Smith doesn’t see him calling it quits just yet either.

“I don’t think he’s slowing down or trying to give up coaching because he loves coaching and making a difference,” Smith said, glad to see the relationship he and many of his former teammates maintain with Young. “Ever since I’ve known him at Suffolk High, he’s always around basketball and at camps.”

If any one on his teams would get into trouble, Smith said he’d be there for you. 

“He could be your friend, a father figure, but he’s also your coach,” he said.