ECU News, Notes and Commentary
Thursday, July 7, 2005
By Bethany Bradsher
Admiral's view on Pirate
fleet spans decades
As a rule,
all alumni and boosters should feel like they are heard by the
administrators of their university, and East Carolina has a history of
giving an ear to its most ardent supporters.
it’s not right to advocate hearing one voice above the others. But if I were
in a position of authority at ECU, I would make a special point of listening
to the Admiral, Bill Greene.
who graduated from the university in 1943 when it was still East Carolina
Teacher’s College, has distinguished himself as an athlete, a retired Naval
officer and a loyal follower of the school that lured him from Brevard
College to play football in 1940. He is also one of only a handful of
surviving ECTC players that was part of the only undefeated season in school
soft-spoken Greene is the kind of man whose integrity comes through without
a lot of words. But when it comes to the rocky terrain ECU athletics has
traveled over in recent years, he is generous with his opinions.
we went through an era of just failure,” Greene said of the recent upheaval
that has given rising Pirate seniors three different head coaches in their
ECU careers. “But I feel that we’ve come to another era now.”
sees it, Steve Logan was the perfect fit for East Carolina, and if he had
been given a chance to do his job under a different athletic director after
Mike Hamrick’s departure he could have spent his whole career in Greenville.
He says that Hamrick made a double mistake in late 2002 — firing Logan and
hiring John Thompson to a position for which he wasn’t prepared.
always felt that a coach should go where they fit,” he said. “Logan fit us
like a glove here. I’ve always said, give a man a horse he can ride.
Thompson got on a bigger horse than he was able to ride.”
Greene feels that Joe Dooley could have been the right fit for the long term
in the Pirates basketball program, but he wasn’t given enough time to
succeed. Both Dooley and Logan were strong leaders that could generate
success, he said.
regrettable decisions have paved the recent road at ECU, Greene said. But
that’s where the good news comes in. In the chairs once occupied by those
who made those questionable decisions are new leaders who seem to be the
right men to undue the damage that has been done.
arrival of Chancellor Steve Ballard, athletic director Terry Holland and
head coaches Skip Holtz and Ricky Stokes, Greene can talk to friends about
ECU now without that unsettled feeling that had been plaguing him in recent
Terry Holland is going to be the big difference because he is going to be
the identity,” he said. “And I think Skip Holtz might be a different story
again. He has the enthusiasm, the type of motivation our people need.”
Greene’s standards for a head football coach seem high, consider the man who
recruited him all those decades ago, the man whose guiding hand has remained
on Greene and other former players despite the fact that he died just three
years after that undefeated season.
Immediately after those 1941 Pirates finished their 7-0 run — surrendering
only 20 points all season — the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor and ECTC
athletics took a five-year hiatus as the country went to war. The majority
of the players from that squad — and Coach John Christenbury — joined the
armed forces during World War II. Only Christenbury, killed in a massive
explosion at the Port Chicago, Calif., Naval Ammunition Depot on July 17,
1944, failed to come home.
Greene and his players called “Honest John” had such a profound impact on
them that they helped convince university administrators to name
Christenbury Memorial Gymnasium after him, and several of the ’41 alumni
organized a scholarship fund in his name. Christenbury, who was inducted
into the ECU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993, embodied what is good about
college athletics because he shaped young men into honorable citizens while
still motivating them to victory on the field, Greene said.
him Honest John because boy, he would just not let you play football if you
were doing anything crooked,” he said. “He would never scold anybody, but
those brown eyes would look at you as if to say, ‘Why did you do that?’
That’s all it took.”
The lessons Greene
learned from 'Honest John' and from his experiences at ECTC served him well
in his long and illustrious military career, and his achievements were not
overlooked by his alma mater. In 1963, a chapter in his life when he was the
commander of the flagship of a destroyer squadron, he was named East
Carolina's alumnus of the year.
Greene lived some of East Carolina’s glory years up close and personal, and
he has been witness to most of the other hills and valleys. He has seen
enough coaches and administrators come and go to be cautious in his
optimism, but he sees reason for hope now. He even got a new walker so that
he can go to the games this season, and he will be there in the handicapped
section on September 3, yelling as loud as he can for his Pirates.
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