Eddie Biedenbach came to Wilmington in 2013, to join then-head coach Buzz Peterson’s staff at UNCW. Biedenbach left UNC Asheville after 17 seasons as head coach to become an assistant coach with the Seahawks, hoping after a few seasons he would retire to the home he and wife Barbara had owned near the beach for more than 30 years.
“I felt that I would stay here and coach until I got to the point that I didn’t have the energy to do the job,” Biedenbach says about making the move. “Things didn’t work out for Buzz, and they decided to go in a different direction.”
Peterson was fired during the 2013-14 season, and after finishing the season as the interim head coach, Biedenbach sought the top job with the Seahawks. The university instead hired Kevin Keatts from Rick Pitino’s staff at Louisville to lead the program, and he brought in an entirely new staff. That made Biedenbach’s retirement happen sooner than he had expected.
“I understand, at that point I was 68 or 69 years old, they might want to get a young guy in there to do it that had more energy, and they could go for a longer time, and have a coach for years down the road,” Biedenbach says. “If that’s the decision they wanted to make, that’s their prerogative. But I thought I would stay on (at UNCW) in some capacity. That was disappointing. But that’s the way it is in athletics.”
Biedenbach’s athletic career began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he became a multi-sport standout at Edgewood High School. His talents caught the eye of Peter “Press” Maravich, a native of nearby Aliquippa who was an assistant to legendary head coach Everett Case at North Carolina State. Biedenbach narrowed his final college choices to his hometown University of Pittsburgh and the Wolfpack.
“I remember I was trying to decide between Pitt and NC State,” Biedenbach remembers. “My jayvee coach pulled me into the office, and I told him ‘I think I want to go to State’. He said ‘oh, that will be a great place for you, ACC tournaments, the Dixie Classics’. He said ‘you’ll have a great seat watching those games, because you’re not going to play’.”
It took a while, but Biedenbach earned playing time under Case. Biedenbach tells a funny story about Case throwing him out of a practice at 12:15 of the podcast.
Maravich took over as NC State’s head coach when health issues forced Case to resign two games into the 1964-65 season. Maravich left in 1966 to take over the program at LSU, and Norm Sloan returned to his alma mater to become Biedenbach’s third head coach in three years.
“I learned a lot from all of those guys,” Biedenbach says. “I was disappointed when Coach Case got ill and eventually passed away. I was disappointed when Coach Maravich left. But I was more concerned with N.C. State, our team, and what we were doing. I never thought about transferring or worrying about who was coaching. I just wanted to win. I wanted to get as good as I could get.”
Twice a First-Team All-ACC performer and Wolfpack leading scorer, Biedenbach was drafted in three professional leagues, the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA, New York Nets of ABA and the Dallas Cowboys of National Football League. Pro football teams were looking at good athletes, like Bob Hayes, who played football at Florida A & M but was more well-known as a world-class sprinter. He won two gold medals at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Toyko before going into pro football.
“I was quick and had good hands, but I wasn’t a pro football player,” Biedenbach said. “It never developed into anything. Plus, I had just come off a back injury, which really made it that I was never going to that kind of a contact sport.”
Biedenbach signed with the Lakers, who at the time had Hall of Fame players like Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. He talks about the experience of being on the court with those players at 24:15 of the podcast.
After giving pro basketball a try, Biedenbach returned to NC State as an assistant on Sloan’s staff. He began to travel the roads of North Carolina, battling coaches from other programs to sign the best high school players to scholarships. One of Biedenbach’s prized signees was a player from Shelby named David Thompson, who would become a key component of the 1974 national championship squad. Biedenbach reminisces about first seeing Thompson as a lanky 16-year-old, and recounts the player’s famous fall during the 1974 NCAA East Regional Final game against Pittsburgh, starting at 27:45 of the podcast.
Biedenbach took his first head coaching job in 1978 at Davidson College, and in his third year the team finished 11-5 atop the Southern Conference standings. Biedenbach left Davidson for the University of Georgia, and in his first year as an assistant the Bulldogs played N.C. State in the Final Four, against several players Biedenbach had recruited before leaving Raleigh. The Wolfpack won that semifinal and went on to capture the championship by upsetting Houston.
“That was a weird feeling,” he remembers. “I love N.C. State, and I’d do anything for them. But I was trying to beat them that night. I really wanted to win that game. Then I pulled for them against Houston.”
Biedenbach’s next head coaching job would help cement him in the annuls of college basketball in the state of North Carolina. He took over the program at UNC Asheville in 1996, and went on to win a school-record 256 games over the next 17 seasons. Under Biedenbach, UNCA won or shared five Big South Conference championships and made three NCAA Tournament appearances, including the famous game in 2012 where the 16th-seeded Bulldogs led top-seeded Syracuse with less than seven minutes to play in the game. Biedenbach talks about the days at UNC Asheville, including the Syracuse tournament game, starting at 39:15 of the podcast.
“We were very successful at Asheville,” he says. “We got a lot of players that a lot of people thought were too good for our league or our program. I swear, I never went into a game that I didn’t think we could win, as a player and as a coach.”
Since his last year as an assistant coach on Peterson’s team at UNCW, Biedenbach has been enshrined in several halls of fame, including the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame (2014), the Western North Carolina Hall of Fame (2015), the Big South Conference Hall of Fame (2015) and the UNC Asheville Hall of Fame (2015). He also serves on the board of the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame.
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