Commentary

DeCock: Biedenbach is 'old school' but very relevant

ldecock@newsobserver.comNovember 24, 2012 

UNC Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach yells to his team during the first half of N.C. State's game against UNC Asheville at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Friday, November 23, 2012.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com

— Eddie Biedenbach’s portfolio is full of scouting reports, practice plans and other notes. What it lacks is a single pen. Tucked inside the front cover is a neat row of sharpened No. 2 pencils. In a digital world, Biedenbach is still a pencil guy, one of the last links to a storied age of N.C. State basketball.

Far from being an anachronism, though, Biedenbach is as relevant as ever. At 67, he has built a Big South dynasty in the mountains, taking UNC Asheville to two straight NCAA tournaments and getting a new arena built along the way. And as much as N.C. State still means to Biedenbach, he would have liked nothing more than to pull the upset Friday.

So close: His Bulldogs outhustled and outplayed the Wolfpack, leading late before falling 82-80, a heartbreaking finish for a coach whose heart otherwise belongs right here.

“I love N.C. State,” Biedenbach said. “My wife went here. Both my daughters went here. My son-in-law went here, the older one. N.C. State has been just great to me. From that standpoint, it’s like coming home. Other than that, it’s a big-time game in a full arena.”

N.C. State long ago became home for the Pittsburgh native. He played for Everett Case, Press Maravich and Norm Sloan, coached under Sloan and recruited and tutored David Thompson, among others. Thompson still credits Biedenbach for helping hone and refine the fundamentals of his game, not that such praise resonates with today’s players.

“If I say ‘David Thompson would do this,’ ‘Dominique Wilkins would do this’ – they don’t even know who that is,” Biedenbach said. “You have to live in today.”

Still, even if the stories Biedenbach tells – and he can tell story after story – don’t have the same impact, his ability to impart the skills of the game of basketball hasn’t changed. Just as he once tweaked Thompson’s footwork, he’ll make minute adjustments to one of his players’ defensive position or their shooting form, always coaching, always teaching.

That’s what works in the Big South, where developing players is as important as recruiting them, and Biedenbach has gotten results. In 18 years in Asheville, the Bulldogs have won three conference tournaments, five regular-season titles and made the only three trips to the NCAA tournament in school history, not to mention getting a new 3,400-seat arena built on campus.

To Biedenbach, that’s only the beginning. He has visions of Asheville alongside Davidson and Gonzaga, the major mid-majors. That’s a little harder to visualize at this moment than it was last spring – after losing four starters to graduation, and as well as they played Friday, the Bulldogs are still 1-5.

“I like our talent,” Biedenbach said. “We have a little more size. I think we have a chance to be a better defensive team than we last year. Last year we were very good. We weren’t big enough last year, but we were very good on the ball and taking guys out of what they did. Right now, we’re just playing defense. We’re not taking people out of things.”

Biedenbach says everyone asks him how much longer he’s going to coach, “because I’m old.” But he still enjoys it, there’s no doubting his fire – he picked up a technical foul early in the second half Friday night -- and the game is as compelling to him as it has been all along. If there are players willing to learn, Biedenbach is as willing to teach them as ever.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947

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