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Don't miss Al Myatt's profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the current Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Monday, February 28, 2005

By Al Myatt

Criticism of Holland's methods off base


Terry Holland stood courtside following East Carolina's 76-72 loss to Houston on Saturday night and politely clapped.

The gesture by the East Carolina athletic director may have been perceived as puzzling to a degree, considering it had been less than a week since Holland had fired Pirates basketball coach Bill Herrion.

What was there to applaud exactly? ECU's effort? Maybe that the loss proved Terry right in dismissing Herrion?

Holland was not as condescending as he may have appeared now that he has defended himself in light of recent public perception.

Six years into his service at ECU without a winning season to show for it, Herrion was called to a meeting last Tuesday with Holland and senior associate athletic director Nick Floyd. The discussion apparently has had some significantly different consequences than those intended by the Pirates AD.

Herrion was informed as the trio met in private that he would not be continuing as basketball coach after the end of the season, a decision Holland has since indicated he made in part to alleviate unhealthy pressure to win that had existed within the program all season because of the uncertainty of Herrion's future at the Pirate helm. Herrion has said himself he had figured Holland's axe was a 50-50 shot going back to December.

"Not enough wins," said Herrion, 70-98 at ECU after going 121-32 at Drexel with three mid-1990s trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Herrion apparently had asked to be made aware of his job status as soon as a decision was made. Holland complied and offered Herrion an opportunity to continue working within the ECU family in a special fundraising capacity. Holland wanted the coach to take some time and consider that option. The discussion between Holland, Floyd and Herrion apparently was supposed to remain confidential.

But word got out — the substance of the get-together being reported by WNCT-TV 9 — and the media was soon awash with reports.

(Channel 9 sports director Brian Bailey is also a regular columnist for

The breaking of the story prompted an official ECU release later last Tuesday confirming that Herrion was being terminated as hoops coach with an option to remain at the university in another capacity.

Herrion's public response after a 77-66 win over Southern Miss on Wednesday night was that he was a basketball coach, not a fundraiser.

Herrion asked media to focus on the win and not his firing in his postgame news conference on Wednesday.

Herrion has since characterized the timing of the decision as a distraction to his team as the Pirates try to qualify for the Conference USA Tournament as one of the top 12 teams in the standings among the league's 14 basketball programs.


 • Replay the postgame remarks of Bill Herrion and players after East Carolina's 76- 72 Saturday night loss to Houston (digitally recorded by Al Myatt):

Select audio clip

If Herrion violated the confidence of the meeting, then he is the culprit of the situation and not the victim as he portrayed his program after the loss to Houston in his final home game on Saturday night.

If the substance of the meeting was leaked by someone other than Herrion, then the Pirates' long-struggling basketball program is not the only problem ECU needs to address.

Herrion said the decision "hurts" and he was "confused" by it following a tough loss to the Cougars.

Holland sought to eliminate confusion in an open response to a particular critic. Holland's response was posted on ECU's official website,, on Sunday and does a good job of putting some of the missing pieces on the situation into place.

Some fans wore "Fire Holland" T-shirts to ECU's game on Saturday night and Pirate partisans warmly cheered Herrion's arrival on the court. It's unusual for a fired coach to get that kind of sendoff and Herrion's efforts are deserving. Still, the fans' perceptions have to a degree been orchestrated by Herrion's post-Tuesday spin.

In fairness to the hard-working Herrion, he faced an uphill battle to bring the Pirates to a competitive level in C-USA. Perhaps he's still working, trying to give his players a motivational edge going into a crucial league game at Tulane this Saturday.

Herrion feels he's done a lot of things well in representing the Pirates and he has. He's taken some tough stances on academic performance. When he has won, it has occasionally been against the "brand names" of C-USA with lesser talent motivated by the support within Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

Attendance remained strong for the program — 5,705 for a 9-18 team on Saturday night.

Personally, I like Bill Herrion. He's done a good job at times of competing at a football/baseball school with less talent, resources and tradition than those enjoyed by many of his current league adversaries. He had a lot of young players who may be on the threshold of breaking out in a watered-down C-USA next season.

I would have liked to have seen him get another season, but Holland, without firsthand knowledge of the program's extenuating circumstances during the Herrion era, decided otherwise.

In the final analysis, Herrion hasn't treated Holland fairly if the coach indeed asked to be made aware of his job status when a determination was made. Holland apparently made his evaluation and obliged.

The Pirates AD had been cast in the bad guy's role in his reticence but did a good job of explaining the basis and intentions of his actions regarding Coach Herrion.

A similar situation arose in football when John Thompson was dismissed with two games remaining. Thompson wanted to tell his staff immediately and with that many people in the loop, an announcement was scheduled. With only three at the meeting involving Herrion, the plan was to keep the matter quiet until the coach advised how he wanted to proceed.

Obviously, the plan didn't work out as the news quickly spread.

So there was Holland, diplomatically cheering and clapping at courtside at the close of the Houston game, actions that appeared inconsistent at the time in terms of his treatment of Herrion.

His gestures were entirely appropriate in light of his post Sunday. Holland is seeing the bigger picture and perhaps he is addressing a case of coaching burnout before it reaches a dangerous stage.

Keep applauding the Pirates, Terry. Now that we understand a little better, we should applaud you.


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02/23/2007 12:33:06 AM

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