The size of the lettering is modest, like the man himself. On opposite sides of the basketball floor at Greenport High School, in purple — make that royal purple — are the words “COACH AL COURT.”
Greenport’s favorite son, Al Edwards, added another chapter to the lifetime scrapbook he has compiled in his hometown on Long Island’s North Fork. On Wednesday night, before a packed house, Edwards was honored with the official court dedication that renamed the floor he paced for 34 years, 31 as the school’s highly successful head coach, winning 383 games, 12 league titles, 10 county crowns and earning three trips to the state final four.
“I’m really thrilled that my name is on the court and I’m even more thrilled that it’s in the Dude Manwaring Gymnasium,” Edwards said, referring to his high school coach and the man who hired him as the JV coach in 1978. “I never thought anything like this would happen.”
Edwards, 63, who retired from coaching and teaching at Eastern Suffolk BOCES in Westhampton in 2013, said he likes to walk into the gym on days he serves as a substitute teacher at the K-12 facility on Front Street, and quietly admire his name on the court. “It’s pretty special. It was a reflective moment when I first saw it,” said Edwards, who graduated from Greenport High School in 1972 with 2,117 points, then a Long Island record. “You look back on all the hard work I put in and all the players who worked so hard for me. It’s a highlight of my life.”
One of his former players, Ryan Creighton, who amassed a Long Island record 2,799 points from 2004-09, is now Greenport’s junior varsity coach and a varsity assistant. “He’s such a humble and gracious guy,” Creighton said. “As exciting as this night is, it’s just another day for him. His demeanor is the same as if he was coaching.”
After being introduced by athletic director Chris Golden, who called him “a true Greenport legend,” Edwards received the first of three standing ovations.
He paused and got choked up when he thanked his late parents, Sarah and Charles Edwards, drawing more cheers. He thanked his players, dozens of whom rose to applaud their old coach. He praised Greenport’s teachers and administration for “always stressing education. You had to be a student first, then a basketball player.” He thanked his two daughters and two sisters for driving up from Maryland for the ceremony and reserved a special thank-you for his wife, Denise.
“She missed a whole lot of vacations because we were always practicing,” Edwards said. “Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas week, February break and some years the playoffs in March. And through it all she’s still here with me.”
He turned and pointed at coach Ev Corwin and the 2017-18 team and said, “I’m happy the current coaching staff is continuing the winning tradition.”
On cue, the Porters defeated Mattituck, 80-59, in a non-league game, improving to 4-1 for the season. Flashy sophomore Ahkeem Anderson had a spectacular game with 39 points and junior Jaxan Swann added 24.
Edwards watched much of the game from behind the Greenport bench. “I’m a good spectator now,” he said.
But he’ll forever be Coach Al. It says so right there on the court.