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OBSERVATIONS ON COLLEGE SPORTS
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Nuggets of Gold
Friday, January 15, 2010
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By Adam Gold
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Adam Gold is the host of the Morning Show (6-9 a.m.) on 620 the Buzz.

Five-year hiring plan has its pluses

By Adam Gold
©2010 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

Five years. Five very good years. Skip Holtz came to Greenville charged with turning East Carolina back into a winning football program.

Starting in the early '90s, Bill Lewis and Steve Logan had been the shepherds of a very successful run for the Pirates. When Loganís time was up, the winning was as well.

John Thompsonís 3-20 record made for a brief stay at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and set the stage for change when Terry Holland assumed the office of Athletic Director.

Holland turned to Holtz, who had been a top offensive assistant to his father, Lou, during the Hall of Fame coachís tenure at South Carolina.

Other than the last name, not too many were familiar with Skip. Some may have thought he was a silver spoon case, but others remembered that it was Skip who started the turnaround at the University of Connecticut. He was the head coach for five seasons in Storrs, winning 34 and losing 23 and bringing the Huskies to the 1-AA playoffs for the first time in school history.

Seven years later, Holtz was charged with much the same job: turning around a program that was struggling. He did it again, leading the Pirates to a 38-27 record over five seasons, including 28-12 in Conference USA.

Under Skip's watch, East Carolina captured two league titles, went to four bowl games and finished a respectable 6-12 against BCS league opponents.

He leaves for the University of South Florida, in the Big East Conference, where winning a conference championship means a berth in a BCS game, a tangible reward that doesn't accompany a C-USA title.

The move makes sense. Itís not for a lot more money, but it is a place that could make it easier for Skip to get that next job.

Frankly, Iím surprised that his name wasnít prominently connected to the opening at the University of Tennessee.

Now itís time for Terry Holland to make the next hire and, in a way, itís far more important than the one he made five years ago. The next hire will serve to identify just where East Carolina stands as a football program.

ECU is a great place, a place you can win, a place that can prepare coaches for the best jobs in the country. Itís not a crime against the Pirate Nation to say that theirs is a stepping-stone coaching opportunity.

South Florida is on the same list of stepping-stone stops, as is the University of Miami. Those schools are just further up the path.

What Holland canít do is be afraid that the next hire will do exactly what Holtz did. The way I look at it, if Holland loses a coach every three or four years, thatís a great sign. If other programs keep hiring away your head coaches that must mean theyíve been doing something right.

Bill Lewis won so Georgia Tech called. Steve Logan won, so many major programs called ó Logan just didnít feel like answering.

Now Holland has to bring in the next guy who will be everyone elseís target.

What you don't want to do is turn your program into the equivalent of a big high school. Boston College just did that when its athletics director, Gene DeFilippo, angered that then head coach Jeff Jagodzinski would dare seek a better job, fired him and announced that he wanted someone who wanted to be at BC for a long time. Thatís delusional.

If thatís your aspiration, to just be the ECU head coach, thereís a fair chance youíll never build a great program.

The best example of this really comes from basketball. In a 10-year stretch, the University of Tulsa had four different head coaches. From 1991-2001, Tubby Smith, Steve Robinson, Bill Self and Buzz Peterson were in charge.

During that stretch, the Golden Hurricane played in six NCAA Tournaments with a record of 9-6. Twice they reached the Sweet Sixteen; another time they made it to within a game of the Final Four.

Each of those coaches moved on to higher-profile jobs. Smith went to Georgia and then Kentucky, where he won a title in 1998. Self, stopped at Illinois before landing at Kansas where he won a championship two years ago.

While Robinson and Peterson didnít find the smashing success of Smith and Self, they were hired away because of what they were doing while at Tulsa.

To worry about schools poaching your coach is to be afraid to fail. Remember, itís always a good sign if other schools want to hire your coaches. That means youíre hiring the right people.

Skip Holtz was the right guy for ECU. Letís hope the next ďSkipĒ climbs up the ladder thanks to a handful of great years in Greenville.

ē E-MAIL ADAM GOLD

ē ADAM GOLD ARCHIVES

01/15/2010 06:44:31 AM

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