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View from the 'ville
Thursday, January 3, 2008

By Al Myatt

Coach's status complicates recruiting

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Going into West Virginia's Fiesta Bowl matchup with Oklahoma on Wednesday night, six teams had played in the Bowl Subdivision postseason with interim coaches — and all six had lost.

The Mountaineers were guided by associate head coach Bill Stewart against the Sooners.

There appeared to be a solid trend in terms of the effectiveness of temporary leadership — one that may apply to East Carolina's basketball coaching situation at the present time.

Following the summer resignation of Ricky Stokes after a 14-44 record over two seasons, ECU athletic director Terry Holland turned the reins of the Pirate program over to former Stokes assistant Mack McCarthy. ECU was fortunate to have someone with McCarthy's experience on staff to assume command as acting head coach with circumstances unfavorable to a lengthy coaching search at that time.

McCarthy had 16 years of head coaching experience at Tennessee-Chattanooga and Virginia Commonwealth, producing a 309-177 record with those programs. McCarthy's teams have made seven trips to postseason play with his 1997 Chattanooga club stunning Georgia and Illinois to reach the Sweet 16.

McCarthy already has become the first Pirate coach to win against an ACC opponent with a 75-69 victory over N.C. State on Dec. 8.

After disappointing losses to UNC-Wilmington and Lee University, ECU appeared to have gotten back on the right track with an 89-64 win in Greenville over Coastal Carolina on Wednesday night.

Inconsistency appeared to have been a problem for the Pirates in their two steps back since the win over the Wolfpack. Junior guard Sam Hinnant, who lit up the Wolfpack for 30 points, managed just five points in the 71-67 loss to the Seahawks.

Sophomore post player John Fields, who helped take up Hinnant's slack against UNCW with 26 points, had just four points as the Pirates lost a late lead against Lee.

Hinnant returned to form against Coastal after the stunning loss to the NAIA program as he scored 23 points.

N.C. Central (1-18), which visits on Saturday, will be the last non-conference contest before the Pirates travel to No. 2 Memphis for their Conference USA opener on Jan. 9. McCarthy has taken the good and the bad in stride thus far in ECU's 5-7 start.

"I've enjoyed all my years here at East Carolina from the standpoint of dealing with people and my job description," he said. "Anytime you're having some success, it's more fun. To move over one seat was not a big deal and is not a big deal.

"Last year, I did all I could do as an assistant and this year I'm doing all I can do as a head coach. I'm putting just as much time in one place as the others. It has been fun to watch the kids improve, both individually and as a group."

The 55-year old McCarthy will get the most out of the material he has but the real problem the program faces as he works on a one-year contract is in terms of recruiting. The Pirates face an obstacle enlisting prospects because the future leadership of the program is uncertain.

ECU athletic director Terry Holland has indicated he will make a decision following the season on the hoops coaching situation.

The Pirates did sign 6-foot-2 guard Raheem Smith from Louisburg in November. Smith is a hometown product who averaged 21.2 points, 6.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds as a senior at Greenville Rose.

"We can sign three and we've already signed one so we've got two (scholarships) left," McCarthy said. "We didn't see exactly what we wanted in the fall to help this team move forward so we decided to wait until the spring.

"We continue to recruit and probably, honestly, have to have some resolution as to our status before we can move any further forward. We were very fortunate to get a good guard in Raheem Smith, who was from here in town, which gave us an advantage there.

"But we'll probably not be able to move forward until we get some resolution. We're staying active. We're doing things we need to do. We're developing those relationships but we're not going to be getting any commitments until we find out what our status is. That's just a fact of life."

McCarthy said ideally the Pirates would probably try to sign another post player and a big wing player with their remaining scholarships. Realistically, he would simply boost the Pirates' talent pool.

"We probably would just take the best available," McCarthy said. "We've got a lot of players back and we've got a lot of people that we think can be starters on this team. We probably would take the best available kind of guys. We can always use players who are skilled and can score. I think scoring and being able to be a good offensive player right now is a priority for us."

SI re-examines UVa-Chaminade

The 25th anniversary of Chaminade's 77-72 upset of No. 1 Virginia, which featured 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson and was coached by Terry Holland, didn't go unnoticed by Sports Illustrated. The magazine did a feature retrospective on one of college basketball's biggest upsets ever.

Sampson had battled flu since the Cavaliers had beaten a Georgetown club that had its own premier big man, Patrick Ewing. Superstation television owner Ted Turner had billed the Cavs-Hoyas matchup as the "Game of the Decade."

The Cavs had flown to Japan prior to their trip to Hawaii and were weary from their travel.

"We played hard against Chaminade," Holland said. "We just didn't play well."

"We won the game of the decade and lost the upset of the century in the same month," said one former Virginia player.

Names back on the backs

East Carolina football coach Skip Holtz had the players' names put on the jerseys for last season's 24-7 loss to South Florida in the inaugural Bowl in Birmingham. After that defeat, Holtz said the Pirates wouldn't have their names on their jerseys again until he felt like they were deserving.

Holtz must have had a premonition before the Hawaii Bowl. ECU players had their names back on their jerseys and judging from a 41-38 win over Boise State, they were certainly deserving.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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01/03/2008 03:15:35 AM


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