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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

By Bethany Bradsher

Moore plots course for "next level"

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Most of Wes Moore’s previous coaching stops have been rescue operations, when he was called in to resuscitate a faltering program. In this, his fourth head coaching job, he inherits a healthy East Carolina women's basketball program that needs aggressive health maintenance and a periodic infusion of big dreams.

It’s a different approach for Moore, who inherited a University of Tennessee-Chattanooga program with an 8-19 record and turned things around so thoroughly that his Moccasins won eleven consecutive Southern Conference titles. ECU athletic director Terry Holland put that streak in perspective on Tuesday.

“No coach on the men’s side in the history of college basketball has ever done that, and only one on the women’s side, Geno Auriemma at UConn,” Holland said. “That gives you an idea of what that accomplishment is like. So we’ve got a proven winner at every level.”

After a whirlwind interview process and an emotional farewell to his UTC players, Rouse arrived in Greenville with just enough time for a brief meeting with the Lady Pirates before facing the media at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. That crash course left him little time to make detailed assessments of his new team, but he knows that he inherits a team that is in the habit of winning.

“Everyone I’ve talked to has assured me that this is a great group of young ladies to work with, and of course they’ve already proven that they’re a very talented team with the success they’ve had of late,” Moore said. “Hopefully that great foundation that has been laid, and that taste of winning that they’ve enjoyed will make them hungry to win championships and to continue to try to go to the next level.”

The Lady Pirates finished the 2009-10 season 23-11, losing in the second round in their first-ever trip to the Women’s NIT. When they tip off again in the fall, the roster will feature all of last year’s starters returning to the court, with seniors Kim Gay, Shaunda Ashford, Allison Spivey and Kelly Smith leading the way.

The players have been on a rollercoaster ride since Sharon Baldwin-Tener announced on April 16 that she was leaving Greenville for the head coaching post at Georgia State. Spivey and her teammates, especially the upperclassmen, were rattled by the news initially, she said, and then they spent an anxious two weeks wondering who would lead them next.

Even though they have only talked briefly to Moore, all of the players are relieved to be moving forward and excited about their new coach’s winning tradition and reputation as a team unifier.

“I think there are a lot of people on the team who are willing to help him,” Spivey said. “We started off on a good foot.”

Freshman Ariana Jackson, one of the top newcomers on last year’s squad, said that their initial team meeting with Moore started off quietly, but as they all became more comfortable with each other the players starting asking him questions about himself, his team policies and his goals for the Pirate program.

“I’m really excited about our new coach,” Jackson said. “I think he’s going to do good things for our program.”

Moore has been in women’s college basketball for more than 25 years, and in that time he has compiled epic statistics and watched the sport rise to prominence through the WNBA and the national exposure given to powerhouses like Tennessee and Connecticut. At UTC, Moore saw this illustrated in burgeoning crowds — the Mocs’ average attendance soared from 200 to 2,000 in his time there — and in the passion for the game those fans showed.

Pick any part of Moore’s career biography, and an impressive statistic jumps out. In 2003-’04, his squad put together a 27-game winning streak that started in November and didn’t end until a second-round loss at the NCAA tournament in March.

At Francis Marion University, he took the team from 11-15 to 30-3 in just three years. At Maryville College, his new team had won only three times in two years, and in his first season his team tied the school record for wins, with 15.

But, Moore is quick to point out, he didn’t score any of those points or make any of the rebounds, so his number one emphasis must always be on finding and nurturing the right athletes.

“It’s all about players,” said Moore, whose first order of business is to make some recruiting calls and prepare to hit the road when recruiting season starts this summer. “During the official first year at Chattanooga we won 10 games. My second game at Chattanooga, we won 26 games. It wasn’t that I just all of a sudden got smart. We got players.”

“Great leaders inspire others to consider the possibilities and to dream big,” Holland said at Moore’s introduction Tuesday.

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

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04/28/2010 03:35 AM

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