End of an era: Ed Young departs as Nansemond River boys basketball coach

Published 1:56 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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Story by: Matthew Hatfield

Ed Young is one of the last of a dying breed in Virginia High School Basketball: a veteran sideline boss with a no-nonsense approach and acumen in turning around downtrodden programs or elevating competitive ones to new heights.
Young has spent time at four different High Schools in the Commonwealth – first achieving Championship success in his early 20’s at Suffolk High, then orchestrating re-building jobs at both Norview High in Norfolk and Green Run High in Virginia Beach before landing at Nansemond River High, where he’s spent the past 20 years.
Through 34 seasons at the High School level, his record of 517-297 overall ranks among the state’s elite. However, the time has come for a change.
According to Young, Nansemond River has decided not to renew his basketball coaching contract for the 2024-25 campaign.
“I’m in shock. My intent was to come back one more year. It’s hard to convey what I want to convey because I’m still emotional over this and trying to grasp it,” Young stated.
Nansemond River finished 15-8 overall this past season and as the No. 4 seed in the Region 5B Tournament, falling at No. 5 seed Norview by a count of 52-49 in the regional quarterfinals. It concludes a tenure that saw that Warriors go 295-161 overall (.647) in 19 seasons under Young, including their first State Tournament berth in nine years back in 2006-07 as well as five district / conference regular season crowns and three tourney titles.
“There are some good young kids coming. We should’ve went further and I wanted to try to rectify that. Those kids will be good next year and I wanted to be a part of that. The J.V. team went 20-2 and my coaching staff was excited in already beginning individual workouts for summer play. To have the rug pulled out from under you is devastating to say the least,” continued Young, a 1980 graduate of Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania who isn’t ready to retire from coaching completely.
“I don’t know what my future is. I love practice and love competing. I’m one of the very few that still goes out and physically scouts because it’s the old-school way. I don’t know, maybe somebody will want me, but they’re going to have to contact me because I’m not even sure I know how to apply for a job because I haven’t done that in a long, long time. I definitely want to coach and I feel I have a lot to give. We’ll just see.”
Attempts to reach Nansemond River Principal Dr. Shawn Green for comment have been unsuccessful.
Young indicated that he was informed the administration decided to go in a different direction, even though the Warriors have finished at or above the .500 mark in 15 of his 19 seasons at the helm, including each of the past five. He was the only active Head Boys Basketball Coach in Hampton Roads with 500-plus victories. Only one person out of 49 public schools in Tidewater, Landstown’s Dwight Robinson, had been at his respective school longer than Young.
“I know I can be hard at times because I am demanding. But I am as passionate as I am demanding of my players. When I had a chance to speak to them, it was hard to tell them good-bye because I didn’t expect it,” Young added.
“Some of the kids were hanging their heads. I felt some emotion from them, which made me feel good because sometimes as a coach you get on kids hard and sometimes they don’t want you around, but I genuinely felt that they were hurt, and that made me hurt even more.”
It all started for Young in coaching at the now defunct Suffolk High, a program that remains the last in Virginia to average more than 100 points per game back in 1988. Before leaving for Norview, his Red Raiders went 89-33 over five seasons, highlighted by a State Championship in 1987.
“It’s a lot of memories in Suffolk and that’s why I wanted to finish my career in Suffolk to tie it all together. The Nansemond River years were also special,” said Young, revealing he was prodded on multiple occasions to consider other coaching opportunities during his time with the Warriors.
“I was actually offered a few different jobs during my time [at Nansemond] and asked by some Athletic Directors, even a couple Principals, about what it would take to get me to come there. I told them nothing because I love where I’m at and we have good kids. At the time, I was backed pretty good. Thomas McLemore as Principal and Phil Braswell as AD brought me in and they backed the program tremendously. They allowed me to be me and to try to take it to the next level.”
Before his arrival to Nansemond River, Young orchestrated major turnarounds at both Norview and Green Run. At Norview, the Pilots captured the Eastern District title in 1991-92, something they would not do for 20 years, 18 seasons after Young departed.
With Green Run, the Stallions were 0-22 prior to his arrival. In just his second season, they managed to notch 18 victories and reach the second round of regionals, where they bowed out to eventual State Champion Woodside, 85-70, after leading 31-30 at the half. That began a stretch where four times out of nine years one of Young’s teams would get ousted in the playoffs by the eventual State Champ in tournament play.
“My biggest regret is we didn’t go to the State Tournament more than the one time because that’s what I thought we could do. At the same time, it’s not as easily done as said, but I give no excuses. I wish we could’ve and we didn’t,” admitted Young, still proud of the numerous lives he’s been able to impact through coaching and teaching. Several of his players have gone on to the Division I level, a few even getting to play professionally overseas, along with dozens going on to the Division II, Division III and JUCO routes.
“Most all of our seniors, whether they play college ball or not, about 94% of them in fact went on to college. I don’t take credit for that and that’s based on them getting their academics together, being pushed at home. I try to do my part and get them right in school. Having coaches statewide reach out makes me feel really good that we’ve done it the right way,” commented Young, who welcomes his fair share of critics for being outspoken and brash.
Young also acknowledges that he could’ve possibly won even more games and kept players that decided to transfer out if he altered his operating style.
“I can’t make promises about playing time. I don’t care who you are, you’re going to have to earn it, period. The reason we lose kids is because our kids are disciplined, we stay on them academically and off the court, have expectations, hold them accountable and don’t offer shortcuts because there a lot of coaches out there that will. You’re going to have to work and most of the time they do,” Young explained.
“Yes, we’ve had to deal with some unrealistic parent expectations, but tell me what coach doesn’t? Our parents have been great at Nansemond River over the years. They’ve raised the most money yearly than any place I’ve been, which has allowed us to do more. I thank them greatly for that along with my assistant coaches, who I fear for the most right now. I feel for them because they have worked their butts off to make me look good and our program successful.”
Before the 2023-24 school-year started, Young knew he would be retiring from teaching. His plan was to spend one more season on the sidelines with hopes that one of his assistants would inherit the job. It’s unlikely he will have much input on his successor, though did express what he thinks the school should do.
“I would hope Joe Hassell, my J.V. Coach the last three years, would be in line to get my position. He deserves it, worked for it, done everything asked and simply done a heck of a job. I think his record is like 38-3 the last few years with the J.V. team,” remarked Young, who coached on the collegiate level in the 1990’s as an assistant at Division I Quinnipiac in Connecticut and Mount Aloysius in his native Pennsylvania.
“It’s really hard to fathom this and a lot to walk away from. Coaching is what I do and been my passion since I was 20 years old in college, and except for the COVID year, I’ve been doing it for 40-plus years. I didn’t want to give up both (teaching and coaching) in one year. Kids have been my life. To have it taken away from you is painful. I love Suffolk and the people of Suffolk.
“I just hope the good Lord has something for me that will allow me to continue coaching, whether it’s at this level or even in some capacity on the college level.”

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