By Andrew Edwards
Edgewood Academy announced last week that they would be rehiring Coach Darryl Free to fill the position of head basketball coach, starting with the 2021-22 school year.
Free, who was highly successful during his three-year stint with the wildcats, won the 2019 AISA 2A State Basketball Championship, and then followed that accomplishment with a run to the AISA final four the ensuing season.
During his three years at EA, Free served as athletic director, varsity head basketball coach, and in his last two years, head football coach. He spent the 2020-21 year as the varsity boys’ head basketball coach at WS Neal High School in Brewton, AL.
“We really enjoyed our time at WS Neal, and my family and I forged relationships that will last a lifetime. But, when Edgewood Academy called, we had to answer. This is the place that we call home,” Free said.
Once back, Free will serve the school in more ways than one, as he will also be teaching several classes. Each and every one of Edgewood Academy’s players are labeled as student-athletes, and Free is keenly aware about the importance of the first part of that title.
“I tell my players that sports are a privilege, not a given right. Before you step foot on the court, you have to take care of everything else going on in the classroom. Don’t do anything that would otherwise be detrimental to yourself, your family, or the school,” Free said.
As a coach, Free feels like it’s his responsibility to act as more than just an authoritative figure, but also as a role model.
“When you’re around these players all the time, we as coaches have to make the most out of the time that we spend with them. Many of these kids love what they do here at Edgewood, and are willing to go out on a limb and give it their all. That willingness opens the door for vulnerability, and when you have a vulnerable child, then you have the opportunity to help shape their life for the better,” Free said.
Now that the 2020-21 basketball season is over, Free is eager to see what his team will have in store for next year.
“I’ve coached a lot of these kids before, so they know the type of effort that they will expect from me. They’re all familiar with my expectations,” Free said. “We’re going to have a young team, but that’s a challenge that we’ll face head on”.
Overall, Free said that the reception that he received from the Elmore County during his three years at Edgewood was spectacular.
“We had tremendous, tremendous support from Millbrook, Wetumpka, and other areas all over Elmore County. Edgewood was always known as a football school, but I’d like to think that they’re also known as a basketball school now too,” Free laughed.
Free left a lasting message to describe his duties as a head basketball coach.
“It’s my job to push the players beyond what they think they’re cable of, and it’s their duty to go out on the court and give it all they have on a nightly basis. Those are some of the key ingredients to ensure that we have a successful program,”.