Former Gamecock men's basketball video coordinator Brian Edelstein was profiled Thursday by CBSSports.com national basketball columnist Gary Parrish. You can read the article here.
We first told you Brian's incredible story on the December 2 edition of our blog, "Inside The Chart." With Brian's story gaining national attention, we wanted to give you an additional chance to read it. It's long, but we hope you find it worthwhile.
--Andy Demetra, "Voice of the Gamecocks"
Originally published Dec. 2, 2011
Unimaginable circumstances led former Gamecock video coordinator Brian Edelstein to his first college head coaching position. What he has done since is even more remarkable.
Watch. Rewind. Stop. Click.
The life of a video coordinator follows a tedious, painstaking rhythm. Life isn't measured by hands on a clock. It's measured by clips, and edits, and copies-and-pastes. Players move silently across computer screens, every detail charted and catalogued, until the game is broken down to its most basic, molecular parts. It's grunt work at its bleary-eyed essence.
Watch. Rewind. Stop. Click. For a video coordinator, that routine is repeated tens of thousands of times over the course of a season. But every now and then, something will interrupt that sequence. An image will stand out, catch the eye, arrest one's attention, until the person watching can't shake it from his memory.
A year ago, Brian Edelstein was breaking down film as South Carolina's Video Coordinator for Men's Basketball.
This year, he's the interim head coach at the College of Eastern Utah, a respected junior college in Price, Utah.
How he arrived there is marked by an image he won't forget.
The Grind Begins
The coaching bug had burrowed in Edelstein early. As a freshman at Foothill College in California, he moonlighted as a high school assistant. By age 20, the San Carlos, Calif., native filled in as interim head coach for a pair of games. He arrived at South Carolina in 2010 from Kent State, where he served as a graduate assistant.
Like any video coordinator, Edelstein's job had the holy trinity: long hours, low pay, and thankless work. His duties included shooting practice, logging plays, and editing film of opponents - "breakdowns," in basketball lingo. The job was tiresome, but it came with its share of stress. No detail could be overlooked. Video coordinators live in constant fear that a missed clip here, or a wrong edit there, could sabotage their team's preparation -- and thus, their chance of winning.
Edelstein's white, 1972 Chevelle became an all-hours fixture in the Gamecocks' practice facility parking lot. Coca-Cola never far from his side, he grinded away at a job that often gives the young and ambitious their first break into college coaching.
"Brian was a really hard worker. He was very conscientious with everything that he did. He really picked up on things quickly, very intelligent, and was a guy that took great pride in doing his job well," Horn said.
In July, an assistant at Kent State phoned Edelstein with a tip. His friend, Brad Barton, the newly appointed head coach at the College of Eastern Utah, was looking for an assistant.
"I wanted to get back on the west coast. It's in the premier junior college conference in the country. I knew we had a chance to compete for an NJCAA title, and recruit at the highest junior-college level. Being able to be a first assistant was a big part of it, too," Edelstein said of his interest.
Edelstein interviewed over the phone. Three days shy of his 25th birthday, Barton offered him the job. Edelstein headed to Eastern Utah, sight unseen.
At an elevation of 5,957 feet, Price, Utah (population 8,400) sits in a picturesque swath of mining country an hour south of Provo. Clay colored mountains dotted by vegetation surround the town. Its centerpiece, the College of Eastern Utah, has enjoyed a decorated basketball tradition. NCAA Tournament legend Harold "The Show" Arceneaux starred for the Golden Eagles. So did NBA players Eddie Gill and Ime Udoka, and 2011 NBA Draft pick Darington Hobson.
When Edelstein arrived at CEU, he immediately clicked with his new boss. A 31 year-old former Weber State guard, Brad Barton led Eastern Utah to a 23-7 record as interim head coach in 2010-11, then was promoted to the job permanently.
"The thing I liked most about him was his competitiveness," Edelstein said. "He told me his college coaches had to change the rules to every drill, because he'd always find a loophole to win. He'd do whatever he had to do to win."
In the sedate days of August, where time drips by slowly with recruiting and administrative tasks, Edelstein and Barton licked their chops at their team's potential.
"When I got here, we had a ton of talent. Truthfully, there was more than both of us realized. I was definitely excited for how good we could be," Edelstein said.
Both circled the same date: October 1. The first official day of practice for junior colleges.
"A Pretty Standard Day."
Edelstein knew about Brad Barton's health challenges. The College of Eastern Utah head coach had Type 1 Diabetes. Edelstein figures he suffered seizures about once a month. It also gave Barton trouble sleeping. Overcome by restlessness, he'd sometimes return to the office late at night, clock a few hours, and return later in the morning.
So when Barton didn't arrive for work the morning of Tuesday, October 4, Edelstein thought nothing of it.
"Then it got close to lunchtime, and I shot him a text and didn't hear from him. He might have been on a different schedule; I wasn't worried. Then we hit close to practice time [3:00 p.m.], and I started thinking, 'I'm a little worried he had a seizure.'"
Edelstein left his office and headed to Barton's basement apartment a few blocks away. He banged on the door. No answer. Edelstein broke a part of the door and forced his way in.
"Then I saw him."
Barton lay in the bathroom, unresponsive. Edelstein pulled out his phone and called 911.
It was too late. Brad Barton, 31 years old, was dead. Medical examiners have not released an official cause of death, though most believe it was brought on by a diabetic seizure.
Edelstein - the video coordinator so hawkish on details - doesn't remember much about the following minutes. Paramedics shuffled in and out of Barton's apartment. A police officer asked him to write a statement. Calls were made to Barton's friends and coaching colleagues.
Then Edelstein realized he had to do something else.
"Truthfully, what I was dreading most was telling our team," he said.
A mile away, Golden Eagles players were still in the gym, waiting for their coach to start practice. Edelstein had to go directly from Barton's apartment to break the news.
He still can't remember how he delivered the message, or what reaction his players had. That part is buried under a fog of grief. But the scene that greeted Edelstein when he arrived at the gym remains burned in his mind.
"I was thinking, 'Maybe they'll be shooting around.' But they had started practicing on their own, doing drills. That was unreal to me. That's a testament to [Barton], and the discipline he instilled in some of them. That was pretty incredible," Edelstein said.
Rising From Grief
Darrin Horn endured a tragedy of his own while head coach at Western Kentucky. In May of 2005, his junior guard, Danny Rumph, collapsed and died after playing a pickup game in his native Philadelphia.
"You're dealing with it yourself personally - which is hard enough because of your care and concern for people - but you also have to help 10 or 11 guys, and staff members, and everybody else, get through it as well.
"It's really a life-changing event," Horn said.
But how do you handle a life-altering event when it occurs three months into your first college coaching job? Brad Barton had trained some of Eastern Utah's players since they were in high school. He was a second father to many who had come from tough backgrounds. How does a 25 year-old pull together 18 emotionally-shaken young men - some of whom were only two years younger than Edelstein -- just three days into preseason practice?
When he learned of Barton's death from assistant coach Mike Boynton, Horn called his former video coordinator.
"He was very positive, as I expected him to be," Horn said. "I told him to stay strong and keep doing the right things. You're a high-character guy. You're a hard worker. Your job is just to be there for your players as best you can."
The next few days were a blur. Edelstein still struggles to recall the details. A crisis counselor helped mourning players. Students and faculty waited in lines at the Eastern Utah student center, writing farewell messages on blue and gold blankets. Barton's funeral was held inside the Weber State gymnasium. Through it all, Eastern Utah administrators faced a delicate decision: finding a successor to Barton.
A day before the funeral, Edelstein interviewed for the position of interim head coach.
"I would have been fine otherwise, but I was 25 years old," Edelstein said. "They were concerned about a couple of things. And I didn't want to campaign for the job."
Edelstein didn't want to, but his players did. They lobbied to CEU administration to make him interim head coach. They'd already suffered the loss of their coach. They didn't need the added stress of learning a new playbook from an outside candidate.
A week later, Edelstein was summoned to the Athletic Director's office. The job was his.
"[My players] were happy," Edelstein said after telling his team at practice three hours later. " I told them, this is what we all wanted. Now we have to prove to everybody that they made the right decision."
They wouldn't wait long. The next day, Eastern Utah was scheduled to play in a preseason jamboree in Salt Lake City.
Continuing the Legacy
On the night of November 4 -- one month to the day after he found head coach Brad Barton dead in his apartment -- CEU opened its season under interim head coach, and former Gamecock video coordinator, Brian Edelstein. If he had butterflies, they disappeared long ago when he had stepped in as a high school head coach. Besides, he had more pressing issues: two projected starters, 6'6" Max Zhakarov and 6'2" Troran Brown, had been ruled ineligible.
CEU's opening-night opponent, Impact Academy, a prep school out of Las Vegas, began the game by sinking nine of its first 10 shots. Eastern Utah drilled them by 30.
The Golden Eagles haven't looked back. Edelstein led CEU to victories in its next eight games, averaging 85 points per contest. A loss last Saturday to Western Wyoming finally snapped the Golden Eagles' 9-0 start. Athletic Director Dave Paur, who also serves as the women's coach, has stepped in as Edelstein's assistant. Another coach, Dave Hammer, works part-time, commuting from Salt Lake City and travelling with the team for their weekend games. And Barton's parents, Noel and Pam, have come to several of the Golden Eagles' games to show their support. "That's been really special, just continuing what their son valued in a team and doing his family proud," Edelstein said.
While he still uses Barton's playbook, Edelstein acknowledges he has borrowed some of Darrin Horn's teaching concepts.
"We're guard-oriented. We want to trap. We want to fly around. There's no out of bounds in our practices, like at South Carolina. There's no quitting," Edelstein says.
Halfway across the country, as his team prepares to face Clemson, Edelstein has found an admirer in his former boss.
"It's hard enough to make that jump, period. But to make that jump in the circumstances he made it in, it's an unbelievable challenge. To see him do it well, I think it speaks volumes about him and his work ethic and his ability to stay the course," Darrin Horn said.
"The bottom line is whatever's thrown in front of you, you've got to keep going," Edelstein said, reflecting after a recent CEU practice. "You can't live life with what-ifs."
His current circumstances wouldn't permit it. Besides, if Brian Edelstein did, he might miss the incredible images unfolding in front of him.