Cradling a basketball between his arms and long legs at a recent photo shoot - perhaps a little awkwardly - Brentwood girls basketball coach Edwin Cook announced to the room what probably didn't need to be said.
With a goofy grin on his face, Cook deadpanned: "I'm not real good about being cool."
Luckily for Cook and his Lady Eagles, he's real good at coaching.
For leading Brentwood to its first state title in school history, Cook has been named The Augusta Chronicle Independent Girls Coach of the Year.
Cook, in his second year at Brentwood, has proven he knows how to take a winning program and make it better.
"I knew coming in two years ago I had a really talented team," said Cook, whose two-season record at Brentwood is 59-2. "I knew coming in the expectations would be high."
It was something, however, Cook didn't mind. After all, he was used to high expectations and lots of pressure.
Before arriving at Brentwood, Cook was an assistant coach for two seasons at Gatewood Christian in Eatonton, Ga. In two years there, Gatewood went a perfect 58-0.
Somehow, though, Cook has taken Gatewood's success and transformed it into a Brentwood triumph.
"This season was really great," said sophomore point guard Amy Jones, who averaged 14.3 points per game this year and helped lead the Lady Eagles to a 31-1 record. "At the beginning of the season, I wasn't really sure we could do it. I think we had better talent last year. But we were better as a team this year."
With Jones and senior guard Kena Veal - who averaged 15.9 points per contest, hit a school-record 58 3-pointers and became Brentwood's all-time leading scorer with 1,710 points - leading the way, perhaps she's right.
"I would agree with that," Cook said."I thought we had a good team last year, but I wasn't as comfortable, because it was my first year and because the girls liked their previous coach (Ed Smith) so much. It was kind of an awkward situation."
That, however, didn't mean the Lady Eagles were gawky on the court last season.
Until, that is, they ran into Mount de Sales in the state quarterfinals, where Brentwood was handed a 71-46 loss and an unpleasant memory for the next six months.
When the Lady Eagles met their nemesis in the fifth game of this season, that memory was refreshed when they fell again 44-42.
"That loss might have been a good thing," Cook said. "Now, we wouldn't have that pressure of going undefeated."
Apparently, the loss worked - the Lady Eagles went undefeated the rest of the season and beat Mount de Sales, 52-51, in this year's Class AAA state semifinals on a Jones layup with 30 seconds left.
"That was probably as great as the championship game was," Cook said. "After that game, my biggest concern was getting the team ready for the championship game. The (semifinal) game was the most intense 32 minutes of my coaching career."
His biggest milestone, however, came two days later with Brentwood's 56-49 win against Deerfield-Windsor in the state finals.
For Veal, the win solidified Cook's competence as a coach and - maybe, just maybe - gave him a hint of coolness.
"When coach Smith left, we didn't want any other coach to come take his place," Veal said. "But coach Cook came and did a really good job with us. He knew how we needed to play, and he helped us play as a team. He let us see it's not about individuality. He made us into a better team."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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