“[Coach Smith] wants to see former players when they come to town,” Geth remarked.
Like others in the Carolina basketball fraternity, Geth has returned to Chapel Hill over the years for alumni games, reunions, and personal visits with friends and former coaches. This week, he’s in town mainly on business:
Geth is an assistant coach for the Wofford College women’s basketball team, which takes on Sylvia Hatchell’s Tar Heels Thursday at 7 p.m. in Carmichael Auditorium.
Since graduation from UNC, Geth has played professionally overseas and coached at the high school and minor league levels. This is his second year at Wofford, a liberal arts college of about 1,150 students, and Geth feels like he’s found a home. “I love Wofford – it’s so friendly,” he said. “I really feel good [here].”
And he’s enjoying his work on the women’s side of the sport. “I love it. Women are appreciative of the things you try to do for them. They give me cards for my birthday. I’ve gotten picture frames. I never got that as a boys coach,” he laughed.
During a stint in the public school system, Geth served as an assistant basketball coach for girls and boys teams at Southern Durham High School. Among the players he remembers most fondly is David Noel, now a Carolina senior. The two have kept in touch since Noel arrived on the scene in Chapel Hill.
“We’re awfully close – he’s a great kid,” said Geth. “I really thought he was going to make his mark on the football field. He was one heck of a receiver. But he always had a great work ethic, and I figured he could be a major contributor.”
While at Southern Durham, Geth also served as a case manager for at-risk students – a job he figures his power forward build helped him land. “They saw a 6-9 guy who could be a little intimidating, and I was qualified for the job,” he laughed.
Geth was working toward teacher certification then and says he learned a great deal in his role as a mentor to troubled kids. But he continued to feel the pull back to basketball as a full-time endeavor.
A brief tenure on the coaching staff of a semi-pro team was followed by an offer from Wofford.
“I always wanted to get into college coaching,” he said. “This is where my passion is.”
The Wofford Terriers haven’t won a lot in recent years, and there are some built-in challenges on the recruiting front. The average SAT score of Wofford’s freshman class is 1,244, and meeting minimum NCAA academic requirements is not enough for entry. Meanwhile, there are no majors in which to “hide” athletes.
That academic environment at Wofford is an advantage in attracting some recruits, but Geth, the team’s recruiting coordinator, sometimes must turn away good players because of grades.
“We have the same needs as other programs, but we’re looking for a little different kind of athlete,” he said. “The number one thing at Wofford is that you’ve got to have good grades. I’m not talking about passing grades, but top 10, top 15 percent in your class kind of good grades. And we want kids the teachers have nothing but good things to say about. You know they’ll eventually adjust at Wofford, where [classes] will challenge you.”
Recruiting aside, it stands to reason that any basketball team would likely benefit from having a coach on the bench with national championship experience.
The Wofford women’s team is fortunate to have two such coaches.
Geth was a freshman on UNC’s 1993 championship team. A year later, Edgar Farmer, currently in his second year as Wofford’s head coach, served as a student assistant as the UNC women hoopsters captured the national title.
“Being part of the Carolina coaching tree is an honor and privilege and something I hold very dear to my heart,” said Farmer, who also played JV basketball under coach Randy Weil. “It means you represent all the ideals the program stands for – you play hard, you play smart, and you play together. You’re a class act, and your character shines through. Those are things I think we have in our program at Wofford College.”
The combined experience of Geth and Farmer is starting to pay on-the-court dividends for the Terriers, who compete in the Southern Conference against such schools as Davidson, Furman, and Appalachian State. Their team is off to a 4-1 start.
Wofford athletics director Richard Johnson credits Farmer and his staff with changing the culture surrounding the program. “They’ve done a masterful job of creating confidence in the players and instilling a winning attitude,” Johnson said.
When putting together his staff, which also includes assistant Sarah Jansen, Farmer felt Geth would be a perfect fit. He shared the Carolina coaching philosophy; he’d established recruiting ties in North Carolina; and he had an ideal background for teaching the fundamentals of post play.
“I couldn’t find a better post coach in the country,” said Farmer.
Geth was taught, of course, by highly regarded “big man” coach Bill Guthridge, and, as Farmer noted, “He played with some of the most elite level post players on the planet.”
To consider the frontcourt talent Geth was up against in practice at UNC from 1992-96 is fairly mind-boggling: George Lynch, Eric Montross, Rasheed Wallace, Antawn Jamison, and others.
Geth was highly touted coming out of high school, but was a reserve throughout his career at Carolina. Asked about his desire to play more, he said, “Oh, yeah, it was tough. You’re a kid coming out of high school, you’re used to having your way with an opponent…I was able to make that adaptation, but some guys have ill feelings and become bitter.”
Geth, whose effort and personality made him a fan favorite regardless of scoring and rebounding numbers, credits the guidance of Smith with helping him keep things in perspective. He said Smith made sure the lines of communication were open and added that “We talked about life issues, man to man, probably more than basketball.”
The experience, Geth said, has benefited him as a coach. “I can deal better with that one player who’s getting to play 10 or 15 minutes and wants to play more. I can talk about why those minutes are so important and what it means to be a role player.”
While many coaching issues are the same across gender lines, Geth notes differences, as well. “Talking to female athletes, you have to be a little more creative. [Coaching] guys, all you have to do is be able to scream loud and cuss real well, and you can get their attention. With young ladies, you have to prove you know what you’re talking about,” he said, laughing.
Johnson, a former Wofford men’s head coach and a 6-8 man himself, put it this way: “Edgar isn’t big enough to intimidate me much, but when Ed walked in, I said, ‘Oh my.’ But I think the girls see him as big teddy bear rather than intimidating. He’s calm and soft-spoken. But he also communicates with them very well.”
Geth is also known as a friendly and engaging member of the Wofford community.
It doesn’t take much to get him talking about the highlights of his years at Carolina. Predictably, the 1993 championship comes up. “[That] team was absolutely incredible. It solidified that, ‘Boy, did I choose the right school.’”
He continued, “And anytime we beat Duke, for some reason it made you feel good. Coach Smith tried to tell us to treat every game equally – but it was Duke, and we always had something a little extra for them.”
Geth is excited about his future in basketball and says he remains open to the idea of coaching men or women. For now, he’s happy to be part of a program on an upswing at Wofford. “It would take an amazing program to take me away,” said Geth, who is married and has two children.
The immediate task is to prepare the Terriers for a monumental challenge against the highly rated Tar Heels. As Farmer put it, “It’s special and rewarding to take a very good basketball team to Chapel Hill to go against the best.”