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View from the 'ville
Thursday, June 19, 2008

By Al Myatt

From ECU to KU, Dooley still winning

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Joe Dooley has the highest winning percentage of any East Carolina basketball coach in the major college era. While guiding the Pirates' hoops fortunes from the 1996-97 season through 1998-99, Dooley had a record of 57-52 for those four seasons.

That's a .523 winning percentage.

He was hired from former ECU coach Eddie Payne's staff by the late Henry VanSant, who was filling the athletic director's position on an interim basis after Dave Hart departed for Florida State. Former Pirates AD Mike Hamrick asked for Dooley's resignation after a 13-14 season in 1998-99 in which the Pirates lost 65-62 in double overtime in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament to Old Dominion.

Dooley has been an assistant at New Mexico, Wyoming and then a top aide at Kansas to Bill Self since leaving Greenville. He helped guide the Jayhawks to the NCAA title two months ago.

He has long since resolved any animosity about his departure from ECU.

"You want people that want you at a particular institution," Dooley said. "If the administration doesn't want you, then they need to make the changes they deem are necessary. And East Carolina did.

"You don't always agree with decisions. They made a decision but it's worked out great for me. I've been able to do things professionally that I might never have had the opportunity to do. It reinvigorated me at New Mexico. We had a real good run at New Mexico and had a great experience.

"Because of New Mexico and places like that, I ended up here (Kansas). I just think things have a funny way of working out. They've worked out for me and my family."

A son, Max, now five years old, has joined the family since Dooley's days at ECU.

"I've always said this about East Carolina," Dooley said. "Ninety-nine percent of the people there were great to me. Do I look back bitter or anything? No. It's nine or 10 years already so I really have nothing negative to say about the place."

The Pirates have since graduated to Conference USA, making current comparisons to the Dooley era one of those apples and oranges things.

Effective prep for Tar Heels

Kansas took an early 40-12 lead in the NCAA semifinals over top-seeded North Carolina, then withstood a run that saw the Tar Heels draw within four points before the Jayhawks pulled away to an 84-66 victory.

"Coach Self said that it was a tale of three games," Dooley said. "Thankfully, we won two of them."

The Jayhawks dominated to an almost inconceivable extent during portions of that contest that matched Tar Heels coach Roy Williams against his former program.

"We had a good week of preparation for Carolina and had some things we felt like we had to work on," Dooley said. "We were able to get them in and get them in early in the week. Our guys did a real good job of focusing in on a couple of things. We didn't try to give them a ton of things to do.

"We just talked about a couple of things and said if we do these things we'll give ourselves a chance. The guys locked in and did what they were supposed to do."

The Kansas game plan for the Tar Heels was not rocket science.

"They're a great transition team and we talked about limiting transition baskets," Dooley said. "The other thing we were really concerned with was rebounding the ball. They were leading the nation in rebound margin. I think at that point they had outrebounded 31 straight teams.

"We were a pretty good rebounding team and we thought if we could get the ball off the board we could get some transition baskets. We were able to do that."

The Jayhawks won 42-33 on the boards.

Dooley has been rated as one of the nation's elite recruiters by in recent years. He is credited with bringing McDonald's All-Americas such as Cole Aldrich, Tyrel Reed, Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright into the Jayhawks program. Aldrich gave KU some big minutes against North Carolina and Chalmers hit the clutch three that sent the national final with Memphis into overtime.

Kansas had a better showing in the national semifinals than in its regional final against Davidson. The Jayhawks managed a 59-57 win over the Wildcats in Detroit to earn their berth in San Antonio. Davidson coach Bob McKillop played his freshman season at ECU before transferring to Hofstra.

"Coach McKillop's done a great job," Dooley said. "They turned into the Cinderella, which was sort of funny. You're a one seed and you play America's darling. You're supposed to be on a neutral court but we almost felt like we were playing a road game because everybody sort of adopted Davidson.

"They had a great run and had a great player (Stephen Curry). It was neat from the outside, watching them play. Then, all of sudden, here's the situation where you have to play them. Everybody talks about that shot that they missed."

With 16 seconds left and Kansas leading 59-57 before a crowd of 57,563, Davidson had the ball and called timeout. With one second left, Davidson senior Jason Richards heaved a three-point attempt that sailed left of the rim.

"We were up six with a minute left," Dooley said. " ... We didn't handle that great yet when we got that monkey off our back our guys focused in great on the Final Four."

Suggestions vs. decisions

Dooley has developed an understanding through experience as to the difference between being a head coach and an assistant.

"As an assistant coach, you're a suggestion maker," he said. "As the head coach you're a decision maker. In a lot of situations a head coach can delegate responsibilities but there are a lot of things a head coach has to deal with that an assistant coach does not."

That said, Dooley would like to make the move from suggestion maker to decision maker if the opportunity presents itself. He would seem to have solid credentials to seek a coaching vacancy.

"I'm very content at Kansas but I would like to be a head coach again," Dooley said. "Fortunately for us we're at a place where we can be very selective and see what opportunities arise and see what are good fits for us. I'm very happy here but by the same token I definitely want to be a head coach again."

ECU connections endure

Dooley stays in touch through texting or talking to a number of his former ECU players.

"I saw Othello Meadows when we were at Georgia Tech this past season," Dooley said. "Tony Parham, Garrett Blackwelder, Von Bryant, Jonathan Kerner — I've stayed in touch with. Every now and then Dink Peters calls or texts me. I got an e-mail from Steven Branch recently. He's actually teaching school right there in Greenville. He sent me an e-mail and updated me on some of the guys."

Dooley knows current ECU coach Mack McCarthy, who was coaching Virginia Commonwealth when Dooley was directing the Pirates.

"Mack has been able to adapt at different places," Dooley said. "He was very successful at UTC (Tennessee-Chattanooga) with some very athletic guys. He was able to adapt and had some bigger-bodied guys at VCU. Mack's a good basketball man. He's smart and he's been around."

Dooley said resources are a huge factor in the development of a program in ECU's position.

"Unless you have the resources to control your schedule, which takes funding, because then you can buy games so you're not always playing home and home and those type of things," Dooley said. "I don't know all the dynamics (of ECU's current situation). I would think you'd be able to recruit a higher caliber guy because you're in Conference USA.

"I would think that would be a bonus for them but I don't know all the dynamics of what they're spending and all those types of things. I know what we were doing when I was there but I don't know where they are in the league now."

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06/19/2008 02:09:11 AM


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