Alcorn narrows coaching search to three

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 27, 2008

LORMAN — Alcorn State’s women’s basketball program may have a new head coach before long.

According to Athletic Director Dr. Darren Hamilton, they have their field of candidates narrowed to three; Tonya Edwards, Cathy Parson and Josette Barton.

Hamilton said each candidate could bring something different to Alcorn State.

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Aside from coaching and being a mentor to the players, Hamilton said he wants a coach who can connect with the community and fans.

“What we need is someone who can go into a room and work a room. We need to develop a fan base,” Hamilton said.

All three candidates were on campus Thursday to do in-person interviews.

Tonya Edwards

Edwards has had success on the high school and collegiate level. The Flint, Mich. native won two state championships at Northwestern High School in ’83 and ’84. While attending the University of Tennessee, Edwards won two national championships in ’87 and ’89 and was named the Most Valuable Performer of the NCAA Tournament in ’87.

Edwards extended her collegiate and high school playing success into a professional career, playing with various teams in Europe before returning stateside and playing in the American Basketball League and the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Edwards has also had coaching success, winning a state championship at her alma mater Northwestern Community High School in ’93 with a 28-0 record. She was also named the 1993 “High School Coach of he Year” in Michigan.

Most recently, Edwards was an assistant coach at the University of Detroit Mercy.

“She brings a level of energy. She knows what it takes to win,” Hamilton said.

Although she’s had a very successful playing and coaching career, there are several questions about her.

“Has she been able to work in a situation with very minimal resources, would she be able to sustain herself and provide the stamina to develop a program,” Hamilton said.

“She definitely knows what it takes to win, however.”

Cathy Parson

Parson was most recently the head women’s basketball coach at Howard University, where she compiled a record of 96-127 in eight seasons, including a 4-26 record last season.

Parson enjoyed success early at Howard, coaching the Lady Bison to two regular season Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships, and was named the MEAC coach of the year twice.

Prior to being at Howard, Parson was an associate head coach at Richmond, an interim head coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, Christopher Newport University.

While at CNU Parson compiled a 183-83 record, won two Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year awards and coached Karen Barefoot — the only player in NCAA history (male or female) to score over 2,000 points and collect over 1,000 assists.

During her collegiate playing days, Parson was the first female athlete to receive a scholarship at West Virginia University, and was the first female athlete inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

“She’s won at the college level and knows what it takes to win,” Hamilton said of Parson.

Hamilton has several questions regarding Parson’s qualifications — sustaining success and recruiting quality athletes. Hamilton mentioned Parson’s declining success at Howard after her first two seasons as reason for concern.

Josette Barton

Barton is currently the head coach at Provine High School, where her team went 12-8 last season.

“She’s known for turning around programs immediately in a short period of time,” Hamilton said. “She has a knack for graduating athletes and she’s been able to coach athletes that she hasn’t recruited (at Provine) and also showed the ability to raise money (at Tougaloo College).

“She’s a young and ambitious individual.”

In her first year at the school, Barton transformed a team that had only won seven games the year before to being one game away from qualifying for the state playoffs.

Prior to coaching at Provine, Barton was the head women’s basketball coach at Tougaloo and also coached at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Barton graduated from Alcorn State in ’99.

What’s next?

Following the interviews, Hamilton will grade each potential coach on a list of 13 characteristics and attributes in areas such as coaching experience and recruiting ability. Each category ranges in score from zero to three, with a possible max-score of 39.

After he compiles an evaluation of each candidate, Hamilton will make a recommendation to Alcorn State President, Dr. George Ross. Hamilton said he expects a final decision to be reached by early next week.