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Coaches Make Their Mark

One arrived on campus at the start of the 2005-06 basketball season, the other departed at the close. But while steering their teams to identical 19-9 records, coaches Gary Edwards and Cindy Martin wound up in the same place—the IUP record book. 

Edwards, who exited after posting a 206-88 record in ten superlative seasons—he accepted a position at Division II Francis Marion University (S.C.) in April—eclipsed 1930 graduate Regis “Peck” McKnight as the winningest coach in the school’s basketball history. Edwards passed McKnight when the Indians demolished Lock Haven 97-70 on February 6.

Cindy Martin

“I’m proud of that, because there have been some great coaches that have come through here,” said Edwards, who also established a school record for career winning percentage (.701). “It wouldn’t have happened without great players and great assistant coaches. Whenever you achieve something like this, that’s who you have to credit, because they’re the ones doing the heavy lifting.”

Martin joined Edwards in the record book five days later when her team dispatched Shippensburg, 80-71. She surpassed Carolyn Thompson, who arrived at IUP in 1981, as the winningest rookie coach in the history of the women’s program.

“That’s not just for me—that’s a team and a staff record,” said Martin, whose only previous experience running a team was as a junior varsity coach at P.K. Yonge High in her native Florida. “I was lucky to have a great group that jelled. Everyone rose to the challenge.”

Her Indians could just as easily have crumbled like a chunk of feta, relying as they did on six freshmen to share much of the workload. Instead they finished second in the PSAC West (8-4) and cobbled together a ten-game winning streak, highlighted by a 54-49 victory at fifth-ranked Charleston (31-3), an eventual NCAA tournament quarterfinalist.

“At the beginning of the year we were picked fifth in the conference on our side,” Martin said. “I thought we were going to surprise some people. We lost a few more than I would’ve liked, but at the same time, to be 19-9 with a team full of underclassmen, I’m actually very satisfied.”

So was Edwards, who sat out the first five games while the university conducted an investigation into scholarship improprieties. His team went 9-2 down the stretch to qualify for a PSAC playoff berth, extending IUP’s run of postseason appearances to thirteen in the last fourteen years. Were it not for two overtime losses to West champion Shippensburg, the Indians might have matched the second-place finish of the women.

“We had a good year, but I think it could have been better,” Edwards said. “We were so close, particularly in our three Shippensburg games, the one Edinboro game [an 80-79 loss], and the Kutztown game [a 71-69 setback]. It was a good season, but we almost made it a great one.”

Eddie Peterson led the way.  The senior guard earned first-team All-PSAC West and Daktronics All-East honors, led the PSAC and ranked eleventh nationally in scoring (22.1 points per game), set a school record for career steals (259), and finished second all-time in points (1,621) and assists (425).

Two other seniors—forward Lawrence Baker and guard Marc Williams—also figured prominently in IUP’s success. Baker joined Peterson on the All-PSAC West first team and earned second-team all-region honors. He led the Indians in rebounding (7.9) and averaged 20.7 points per game, giving IUP a pair of twenty-point scorers for the first time since 1964, when Mel Hankinson and Jack Benhart were drilling jumpers at old Waller Gym. Williams, who shrugged off back problems to make the All-PSAC West second team, ranked second in the conference in assists (4.5) and dished out fourteen against Mansfield to equal Mont Mattocks’ thirty-eight-year-old school record.

While Edwards relied on seasoned veterans, Martin cast her lot with a nucleus of newcomers. Five freshmen were part of her regular ten-player rotation and started a combined forty-seven games. Jahzinga Tracey spearheaded IUP’s youth movement: The guard-forward from Iowa earned PSAC West Rookie of the Year honors and landed a berth on the All-PSAC West second team after leading the Indians in scoring (9.8), rebounding (6.8), steals (2.6), and field goal percentage (.502).

All told, Martin’s freshmen accounted for forty-eight percent of the team’s points, forty-six percent of the rebounds, and fifty-four percent of the steals. They didn’t play like rookies because they weren’t treated like rookies.

“We told them they didn’t have time to be freshmen,” Martin said. “They could have easily settled to have just an ordinary freshman year and sit on the bench and kind of be a role player. But they refused to accept that. We challenged them, and they stepped up to the challenge.”

Both IUP teams, against daunting odds—the women overcame inexperience, the men a 1-3 start in conference play—advanced to the PSAC tournament. The end came for each in the first round, Shippensburg denying Edwards his sixth twenty-win season at IUP, Edinboro denying Martin’s women only the third twenty-win season in the program’s history.

But by then, the two coaches—one a recent arrival, the other soon to depart—had made their mark on IUP basketball. In the record book.