Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather

Notes, Quotes and Slants
----- Personal Firewall - 120x90.gif

Pirate Notebook No. 70
Friday, May 31, 2002

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Editor's note: This multi-part Q & A special feature from Denny O'Brien
is being run today instead of next Monday, the regularly scheduled day
for Denny's Pirate Notebook, because of its relevance to this weekend's
NCAA regional baseball tournament in Clemson, SC.

Catamount connections converging on Clemson


Cullowhee Family Tree

Arguably the most successful lineage of college baseball coaches can be traced back to Western Carolina and the tiny town of Cullowhee.  Leggett, LeClair, and Hennon have established winning traditions wherever they go, and current Western skipper Todd Raleigh, a former Pirates assistant under LeClair, has the Catamounts back on the rise.

Jack Leggett: In his ninth season as head coach at Clemson, 23rd overall.  Leggett began his head coaching career at Vermont ('78-'82), before heading to Western Carolina ('83-'91).

Career record:  804-456

Regional Appearances: 14

CWS Appearances: 3 ('95, '96, '00)

Honors:  ACC Coach-of-the-Year ('94, '95)
ABCA Atlantic Region Coach-of-the-Year ('87)
Southern Conference Coach-of-the-Year ('87)

Notable:  Touted for enforcing strong academics, Leggett graduated 100% of his players while at Western.  Better than 50% of his players compiled a GPA of 3.0 or better.  Leggett was inducted into the WCU Hall of Fame in the Fall of 2001.

Keith LeClair: In his fifth season as head coach at East Carolina, 11th overall.  Began head coaching career at alma mater -- WCU ('92-'97).

Career record:  439-229-2

Regional Appearances: 8

Honors:  Southern Conference Coach-of-the-Year ( '92, '94, '97)
CAA Coach-of-the-Year ('99, '01 )
ABCA East Region Coach-of-the-Year ('99, '01)

Notable:  Will be inducted into the Western Carolina Hall-of-Fame this October.

Rodney Hennon: In his third season as head coach at Georgia Southern.  Hennon spent two seasons as the head coach at Western Carolina prior to moving to Statesboro.

Career record:  199-104-1

Regional Appearances:  3

Honors:  Southern Conference Coach-of-the-Year (2000, '01).

Notable:  Fastest coach to reach 100-win plateau in Southern Conference history.

Todd Raleigh: In his third season as head coach at his alma mater -- Western Carolina.

Career record:  78-87

Regional Appearances:  0

Honors:  Runner-up for Southern Conference Coach-of-the-Year honors in 2001.

Notable:  Directed the biggest single-season turnaround in Southern Conference history in 2001 (14.5 games).

LeClair Jersey on Sale
at Student Stores and UBE

From ECU Media Relations

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- East Carolina University's Dowdy Student Stores and University Book Exchange (UBE) have created a special ECU baseball batting practice "jersey" to honor ECU head coach Keith LeClair.

The T-shirt, available in both purple and white, is emblazoned with a small ECU baseball logo on the front chest and features LeClair`s name and No. 23 on the back.

Dowdy Student Stores and UBE began selling the shirts today (Thursday, May 30) at a price of $15.

Proceeds from the shirts will go to the Keith LeClair Family Fund set up by ECU`s Pirate Club to help offset the family`s medical expenses.

For more information, call Dowdy Student Stores at 328-6731 or UBE at 758-2616.


East Carolina's next step along its quest for Omaha promises to be one of mixed emotion.  The four-team Clemson regional, which starts today at 2 PM when the Pirates battle in-state foe Elon, reunites three members of the Western Carolina family.

Head coaches Jack Leggett (Clemson), Keith LeClair (East Carolina), and Rodney Hennon (Georgia Southern), all wore the same Western Carolina uniform during the 1990 and '91 seasons.  During that time, Leggett was the head coach, while LeClair was the top assistant and Hennon a standout second baseman for the Catamounts. 

When Leggett left Cullowhee for Clemson to become an assistant under legendary Tigers coach Bill Wilhelm, he passed the reigns over to LeClair.  Hennon played two years under LeClair, then returned as an assistant before taking over at Western when his former boss accepted the vacant post at ECU.

The three remain close friends, and along with current Western Carolina coach Todd Raleigh, form one of the most successful coaching family trees in college baseball.

Q & A with Clemson
Coach Jack Leggett

Here is the transcript from Leggett's exclusive interview, which took place in Chapel Hill, where the Tigers took two out of three from the Heels.

Q:  Coach LeClair wasn't the most highly touted player coming out of high school.  What really attracted you to him?

A:  Well, I had heard good things about him as a hitter.  There was a kid that played here at North Carolina from up in Walpole, New Hampshire.  They kept comparing the two, so I thought I'd take a chance on him (LeClair), have him come down and take a good look at the school.  He came down, got off the plane, liked the school, and wanted to come.  We couldn't offer him a scholarship, but we told him he had the opportunity to be a part of our baseball team.                         

I respect him so much just for believing in us.  He came in and worked extremely hard.  He was  just one of those self-made players.  He worked hard on his bunting game, worked hard in the weight room.  By the time he was a junior and senior, he went from being a singles hitter to hitting the ball off the wall.  He went from being a straight singles hitter to hitting about 18, or 19 home runs his senior year.  He just had a total game for us -- a steady, competitive, tough baseball player.

Q:  Do you think it was his passion that set him apart from the rest as a player?

A:  No question.  And that's what sets him apart now.  His passion for being a competitor, his passion for never giving up, his passion for persistence.  He's one of those kids that never gave up during his time at Western.  Nothing was ever guaranteed to him as a baseball player.  I just had the utmost respect for him as a player. 

And then, we wanted to keep him around as an assistant coach.  He did a great job with recruiting -- he recruited some excellent players.  He worked extremely hard as a coach, and was very loyal and dedicated.  He became an outstanding coach and I knew when I left Western Carolina to go to Clemson, it was very important to me that the program be left in good hands.

That was a very tough decision for me to leave Western Carolina because I liked it there, and I had always been a head coach.  To go to Clemson as an assistant coach was a very, very tough decision.  The thing that made it worthwhile in my eyes was the fact that I knew the program was going to be left in great hands with Keith.  We had put a lot of time into that program -- I had been there for nine years.  It was very important to me that the program not go downhill. Coach LeClair did a great job. 

Q:  Not all players turn out to be great coaches.  What is it about him that made you think he'd be a good coach?

A:  His passion for the game -- he loves the game.  He's a student of the game.  As a player he was, and as a coach he is.  He's just a great competitor.  He doesn't accept losing.  Losing bothers him.  He's always been willing to work hard enough so that he won't lose. 

He loves the game.  He loves being around 18-22 year-old kids.  His priorities are in order, and they always have been.

Q:  Coach LeClair admits that he's never been a hoot-and-holler, in-your-face type of coach.  What is it about his style that makes him so successful.

A:  Everybody does it a different way.  He's got some intensity about him, too, now.  He'll get on you when he needs to get on you, but at the same time, he knows when to take you to the side and take a different approach.  One of the things that I think makes him an effective coach is that he will challenge you.  But at the same time, he will love on you, too.

Q:  What about coach LeClair the person?  What have you learned from him over the past year?

A:  He's got a great outlook, and he's got a lot of faith.  He's got a lot of hope.  He's one of those guys that believes there's a miracle around the corner.  He knows that his friends are all in this thing with him.  We all are feeling the same kind of pain, and same kind of impact.  He's such a good person.  He's like a brother to me.  He's like one of my family.

Q:  What is it like for you personally when you go head-to-head with coach LeClair?

A:  I've always enjoyed playing Keith's teams, because I knew we are going to be in for a battle, and I knew we were going to have to play well to win.  I know the other team is going to be very well coached, and there's going to be great competition.  I thrive on that competition. 

You always feel bad when you win, and you always feel bad when you lose.  But at the same time, when that does happen, you always feel glad to see the person on the other side doing such a good job.  I've always been proud of the teams I've seen him coach.  I've been proud of the competition that we've had against each other.  When we do happen to lose to them, which happens, I feel proud of what he's all about.  It's kind of a Catch-22, you know.  If I'm going to lose to somebody, I just assume it be to him.  He's done a great job, and I always enjoy the competition when we play them.  

Q & A with Ga. Southern
Coach Rodney Hennon

Here is the transcript from Hennon's exclusive interview, which took place earlier this year.

Q: What was it like to play for coach LeClair?

A:  Well, he was a great guy to play for.  I played two years for coach Leggett, and then two years for coach LeClair.  He (LeClair) was following some pretty big footsteps when he took over the program.  I think the thing that he did best was that he was himself.  He didn't try to be coach Leggett.  Our team responded well to him.

I think  personally where he helped me more than anything is that he believed in me.  That made me a better player.  He had confidence in me and the other guys on the team.  That first year he took over, we won, I think 44 games, and we were one win away from going to Omaha.  The way that he handled that team and the confidence he had in us really made us a good ballclub.

Q:  What was it like coaching under him?

A:  I really owe a lot to him.  Because like I said, he showed a lot of confidence in me as a player, and he showed pretty much that same amount of confidence as a coach.  He gave me a lot of responsibility, and I was able to get a good opportunity as a good coach working for him.  To learn from someone like him, and to be given that kind of responsibility at a very young age, no question, gave me some great experience early.  That helped me become a better coach. 

Q:  Do you think you have a similar coaching style as coach LeClair?

A:  We believe in a lot of the same things, as far as what it takes to be successful, especially at this level.  But at the same time, everybody has to be his own self.  The biggest thing I learned from him is hard work.  You've got to work for what you get in this profession. 

Playing together as a team and working together as a team will take you a long way.  We both probably took that from coach Leggett. 

Q:  Coach Leggett, coach LeClair, and yourself all have a wealth of postseason experience as head coaches.  What is it about this lineage of coaches that makes it so successful?

A:  I think it kind of gets back to the things that we all believe in.  One thing we took from that program up at Western Carolina is that it was a family.  It was really a family type of atmosphere.  We always were a close knit group as a team.  It's not always like that everywhere. 

I know that's something that coach LeClair has taken with him to East Carolina.  Coach Leggett moved to a much bigger school down at Clemson, but I think it's still that family type of atmosphere.  That's one thing that we've always tried to do down here since I've been down at Georgia Southern.  Some of the best friends that I have to this day were my teammates there at Western.  Coach LeClair is a great friend.

Q:  What about as a person?  Are there certain things that you've learned from coach LeClair in that regard?

A:  He's got tremendous faith.  His outlook on life, to me, is just incredible.  It's inspiring to all of us.  He's got a positive outlook each and every day.  That's something that all of us can learn from and carry with us.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

Click here to dig into Denny O'Brien's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:46:26 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.