By: Brian Lentz
SENATOBIA – After 32 seasons in charge of the Northwest women's basketball program, head coach Don Edwards has stepped away from his role with the Lady Rangers effective immediately.
Edwards' departure comes after an 8-14 overall record last season and a 3-9 mark in division play. He leaves Northwest as the all-time winningest coach of the women's basketball program, concluding his career with a 468-335 (.583) record and a 230-164 (.584) division record.
Edwards joined the Northwest staff in 1983 and served as assistant coach for men's and women's basketball for four seasons under the late Harry Adair before being promoted to women's head coach in 1987.
During his tenure as head coach, Edwards led the Lady Rangers to 18 NJCAA Region XXIII and three NJCAA National Tournament Appearances as well as a pair of MACJC championships in 1995 and 1996. He posted 23 winning seasons overall and four seasons with 20 or more wins, earning numerous Coach of the Year honors. He was named Region XXIII and District 16 Coach of the Year in 1990, 1996, 1998 and 2005, MACJC Coach of the Year in 1989 and 1990 and was MAC Women's Basketball Coach of the Year in 1990, 1995 and 1996.
A total of 61 players have signed or played at the four-year level during Edwards' head coaching tenure, most notably second-leading all-time scorer Nikita Taylor (Union University), Chatica Hathaway (Ole Miss/Univ. of the Cumberlands), Danada Smith (San Jose State) and recent Mississippi Community College Sports Hall of Fame inductee Shantell Atkins (LeMoyne-Owen). Several others have continued their careers at the Division I level at programs such as Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Auburn and Arkansas State.
Not only have the Lady Rangers performed on the court, but they have done it off the court as well. Northwest posted a 3.69 team GPA last year to be recognized as an All-Academic team by the MACJC, NJCAA and Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
In addition to his duties as women's basketball coach, Edwards also led the Northwest men's golf program for 23 years before the program was discontinued following the 2016-17 season. A two-time MACJC Golf Coach of the Year selection, Edwards kept the Northwest golf program competitive season after season, with at least one golfer competing in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament in 11 of the final 17 seasons and the program being nationally-ranked the final six seasons.
Edwards came to Northwest from the now-defunct West Panola Academy at Batesville, where he served as the boys' and girls' basketball coach, golf coach and athletic director for eight years. Named Coach of the Year a total of six times, he coached in two academy All-Star games.
His record as a high school coach was 246-56 with girls and 162-82 for boys. Edwards' girls' teams finished in the top four in the state for six years, capturing the championship three times. Before arriving at West Panola Academy, Edwards worked at Quitman County High School where he was athletic director, basketball and football coach and driver's education instructor.
With Edwards' departure, assistant coach Troy Howell has been appointed as the interim head coach. Spending the last eight seasons alongside Edwards, Howell has helped the Lady Rangers to a 103-70 overall mark, a 57-39 division record and five postseason appearances.
Prior to Northwest, Howell spent five seasons as the head women's basketball coach at Rust College and was also the track and baseball coach during his time with the Bearcats.
Howell was a teacher and coach at Wooddale High School for one season and also spent a year at White Station as the head coach of the varsity girls team and as an assistant coach on the track team. His first collegiate coaching job was an assistant on the Southern Mississippi women's basketball staff during the 2003-04 season.