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Terry Holland isn’t taking
a shortsighted approach to East Carolina’s hoops program.
If so, he would have
awarded Mack McCarthy a long-term contract minutes after the Pirates
shocked N.C. State in
Greenville. Or maybe he purchases Coach Mack a one-way bus ticket
following the Pirates’
embarrassing loss to NAIA member
Either of those moves
would have been ill-advised given the premature timing. The last thing
East Carolina needs is a basketball transition that is grounded in
“For each of our coaching
situations, we all have to discipline ourselves to look at the whole
picture (at least a full season) prior to making any judgments, either
positive or negative,” Holland said. “It is difficult to refrain from
reacting to each loss or win.”
With each win, it’s
difficult to not be encouraged by the noticeable progress the current
players continuously display. On the same token, there are those
disheartening losses that stir speculation about McCarthy’s prospects as
the long-term solution to ECU’s basketball puzzle.
What isn’t in question is
McCarthy’s track record and firm grasp of the sport’s X’s and O’s. His
résumé at both Chattanooga and Virginia Commonwealth speaks for itself.
Now whether or not that
translates to success at East Carolina is a different question
altogether. Bill Herrion was equally successful during his time at
Drexel but just couldn’t make it work in Greenville.
The exact protocol Holland
will follow in determining the Pirates’ future fate isn’t exactly clear.
automatically get the job if the Pirates show marked improvement? Or is
he simply considered along with a list of capable, energetic candidates
who are ambitious enough to pursue the waiting challenge?
What we do know is the
idea that ECU can’t play quality basketball is a total myth. Those who
witnessed the Joe Dooley era at East Carolina can attest that
consistent, competitive roundball can exist in Greenville, and the
program can attract a foundation of players gifted enough to perform at
higher profile basketball schools.
The latter definitely
describes Raphael Edwards, Evaldas Jocys, Jonathan Kerner and Skipp
Schaefbauer. Each were prominent performers during the Dooley era who
proved that it’s possible to lure players who can thrive both on the
floor and in the classroom in a similar competitive climate to the one
in which the Pirates currently exist.
That goes without
mentioning the fact that ECU’s past recruiting efforts also landed
serious interest from Darius Songaila while NBA superstar Ray Allen
considered a visit.
Though neither is the type
of player East Carolina is likely to land in the near future, both
represent the Pirates’ proximity to turning the corner before then-AD
Mike Hamrick’s careless decision to end the Dooley era.
There’s no reason to
believe ECU can’t approach the same status again.
The good news is the
Pirates couldn’t have a more qualified individual overseeing the hiring
process. Despite the fact that Holland whiffed on the Stokes hire, there
is reason to believe his next attempt will prove more fruitful.
At this stage, Holland has
had sufficient time to accurately assess ECU’s hardwood profile and make
a hire that diligently addresses the Pirates’ primary needs for the
position. Those include the ability to upgrade talent on the recruiting
front, charm students and donors, polish hidden gems with solid
fundamentals, and design and execute well-devised game plans.
Finding a coach who meets
those requirements — be it McCarthy or someone else — is only half the
battle. The bigger, perhaps more difficult challenge is making the
financial commitment that is required to run a successful program.
Because East Carolina
can’t thrive on local recruits alone. Eastern North Carolina and the
surrounding regions have received an increased recruiting emphasis in
recent years, but there just isn’t enough talent on which the Pirates
But there is plenty to go
around globally, and schools in similar circumstances have pursued
foreign players with great success. If Holland lures a dynamic, engaging
personality, increased ticket sales and donations that follow would help
ease the financial burden.
Whether or not McCarthy is
the right guy remains to be seen. The fact that Holland is showing
patience should alleviate anyone’s stress over the program’s future.