Joe Dooley still has a cell phone with a Kansas area code.
He returned a call Thursday as he was headed from one Pirate Club function in Richmond to another one at the Outer Banks.
Dooley has a clause in his contract that will reward him if there is an increase in season ticket sales and besides that he knows that fan support can boost his program as it undergoes a reboot.
“Somebody said, ‘You’re going to the Outer Banks?” Dooley said. “Are you going on vacation?’ I said, ‘I wish.'”
Dooley has been busy at American Athletic Conference meetings in Arizona earlier this week. Last month it was evaluating players within the program and recruiting.
Putting together a staff also has been a priority
“I think the biggest things were, obviously getting a grip on where our roster is as far as who’s going to be back next year,” Dooley said. “Academically where are we? Recruiting always factors into it but I think just trying to get a grasp of who’s who, where they stand academically, where they stand as far as being able to do the things we’re going to ask them to do. We’ve been sorting through those types of things and getting a picture that way.”
There is some contrast to the last time Dooley began head coaching with the Pirates in the mid-1990s. At that time, he was promoted by former interim athletic director, Dr. Henry Vansant after Eddie Payne went to Oregon State.
“It’s going to have to be a build,” Dooley said. “I think we have some foundation guys. I like our freshmen class. I like our incoming freshmen class to build on going forward. That being said, I think the older guys, we’re going to have to figure out where they can lead us and help us. They’ve got to be accountable and they’ve got to show the younger guys that we’re bringing in our work ethic.
“I think that’s where the summer will be important. We only got about two weeks to work with the guys when I got here. Now we’ll have the eight weeks during the summer, which is going to be huge for us.”
Pirate Club message
Dooley’s message on the Pirate Club circuit has been direct and simple.
“We need your support,” Dooley said. “We do. It’s been a little bit of a rough patch. I think the way to bounce back is to work the programs. We need people to join the Pirate Club. Now is a good time for everyone to pull in the same direction. I think Dave Hart (special athletic advisor to the chancellor) understands what we need athletically.
“By joining the Pirate Club and buying season tickets, those things help elevate our program.
“I was just at the AAC meetings. People talked about our place being a hard place to play when there’s fans in the crowd. The flip side is and I said this to the Pirate Club today — football doing well and great football atmosphere helps basketball recruiting. The great basketball atmosphere helps football recruiting because when they bring kids in on official visits, usually it’s for a basketball game. The same thing for us for football. We need to showcase how passionate ECU fans are. … The flip side of that is we need to put a product on the court that makes ECU fans proud and want to come watch us.”
AAC meetings in Arizona
Like his swing to the Outer Banks, there was little time to enjoy attractions in Arizona.
“The Pac-12 was out there,” Dooley said. “The Big 12 was out there so I got to spend some time with Coach (Bill) Self (Kansas). That was a good time, but we were in meetings most of the day. I got done at noon [Wednesday] and was on a 2:50 (p.m.) flight back to Raleigh. I got back late last night. It’s some Pirate Club stuff and back to the office [Friday].”
Scheduling was one of the topics at the AAC gathering.
“We talked about scheduling,” Dooley said. “We talked about how there were three teams in the [NCAA] tournament this year, where they were with their RPI. Unfortunately for the league, SMU having all those debilitating injuries and UCF, the same thing. We talked about potentially we could have had five. Obviously, Temple was on the bubble so you’re looking at almost half of your teams capable or close to getting in the NCAA Tournament.
“Then you start looking at Memphis and UConn have historically been good programs. They will be back. You just look at how good our league has been, especially RPI-wise.”
The strength of the league represents a challenge for ECU.
“There’s no doubt,” Dooley said. “It’s a terrific basketball league. The flip side is if you get to the middle to the upper half of that league, you are in the talk for the NCAA Tournament. That’s a big deal. It’s not a single bid league, obviously. If SMU and UCF had stayed healthy — we scrimmaged UCF last year (when Dooley was coaching Florida Gulf Coast) — I thought they were an NCAA Tournament team. I know Tim Jankovich (SMU coach) very well. They were an NCAA Tournament team early in the year and then they were down to seven guys with guys hurt. That doesn’t help anybody.”
Staff announcements soon
Dooley will be firming up his coaching staff sson.
“We’re going to get everything sorted out here, hopefully, by early next week and have most people on board, staff-wise,” Dooley said. “Then finish up some scheduling. Finish up some recruiting and get ready for summer school.”
Some player personnel changes are apparently in store.
“I do not anticipate having everybody back,” Dooley said. “There will be some guys that won’t be back. I think we’ve got a good nucleus of guys that are going to do the things we want them to do. Act right and play right, compete and do the right things. So we’ll go with who those guys are.”
Mike Wynn appears to be the only incoming player recruited by the previous staff who will not be joining the program.
“We’ve got three,” Dooley said. “DeShaun Wade has re-signed his grant-in-aid. Rico [Quinton] and Jayden [Gardner] never asked out of the letter. We’ll add two to three guys to them.”
Dooley got some direction at the AAC meetings regarding scheduling.
“In the meetings, that was a major point that we all discussed,” Dooley said. “The league has a scheduling philosophy that they would like us to follow and I think it’s very good.
“The bottom line is they want you to play a lot of home games, which I think makes sense, and neutral-court games. We’ve got some built-in rivalry games with Charlotte and Wilmington that have been played historically. I think we need to go out and solicit a couple of games, hopefully with some Power Five or some regional powers, play neutral-court games that can help our RPI, but also test our team to see where we are.
“At Florida Gulf Coast, we played a very difficult nonconference schedule but we were in a different place. We probably scheduled too hard to tell you the truth. I do think when you’re in a Power Six, like we are, you have to have some games where you can get your young guys some minutes. You also have to have some games where you can actually see who you are.”
When will things settle down?
Dooley still has some matters to resolve before a work routine is established.
“We’ve got some Pirate Club next week,” Dooley said. “We’re finishing up exams and making sure the guys are getting through what they need to get through.
“I don’t know that through the first year, you ever get settled down. You have some personal stuff. My family is still in Florida. You’re trying to get them up to look at a house — all those little things that factor in, but we just have to sort of knock things off the check list as we go along.”