Nicole Mealing certainly doesn’t lack for confidence.
That’s a good thing for an East Carolina women’s basketball program working on its third coach since practice started in October.
Heather Macy resigned her position just after the American Athletic Conference basketball media day. Chad Killinger was then named interim coach, but he stepped away for personal reasons in December.
Enter Mealing, who goes from video coordinator to acting head coach in the span of less than three seasons.
“It was a whirlwind,” said Mealing as a guest on my weekly radio show on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930. “This staff stayed close and worked together to keep things going.”
Part of that staff is back. Killinger stepped away from his role as interim coach for personal reasons. He is now back as an assistant on the staff under Mealing.
“We’re certainly glad he’s back,” said Mealing. “We need him for sure.”
Despite the turmoil on the bench the Pirates started by winning nine of the team’s first eleven games.
Lately things haven’t gone as well. ECU has lost five of its last six heading into Wednesday night’s match up with Central Florida at Williams Arena.
Mealing says she and this team still have loads of confidence.
“Confidence is not an issue with this team,” said Mealing. “We haven’t executed like we would have liked at times, but I think we are getting better.”
The Pirates also have to get healthy. This program has missed a handful of players over the last several weeks for a variety of injuries.
“I think we are close to getting our entire team back,” said Mealing. “We just have to keep working as those players do get back in the lineup.”
The Pirates are off to another stellar start at home this season. East Carolina is 8-2 in Greenville, which includes a conference win over Wichita State.
Mealing still relies on her former coach, Heather Macy, for advice and leadership, despite Macy’s status at ECU.
“She was my coach and I loved playing for her,” said Mealing. “I speak with her often because she is my mentor. I rely on her often.”
Mealing won’t come out and say it, but you can pretty much hear it in her voice. I think she would love to get a shot at the Pirate job full-time.
The next couple of weeks may play into that idea. ECU hosts UCF on Wednesday, and then hits the road to take on Temple and Wichita State. The Pirates lone win in league play to date was a 78-56 victory over the Shockers on January 9th in Greenville.
The Pirates then return home to take on a Tulane team that beat them by 11 on the road. Then it’s a match-up with mighty Connecticut in Storrs.
“We play them all the same,” said Mealing when asked about the Huskies. “We worry more about our team. We don’t even worry about what’s written on the front of the other team’s jerseys.”
Mealing is mature beyond her years. She’s taken a very difficult job, especially with her experience, and has had her team in most of their games late.
The games down the stretch will tell.
Mealing, though, deserves a ton of credit for making the best of a really difficult situation.