College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Thursday, April 25, 2002
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer
facility affords new possibilities
Whitten credits Connors
East Carolina strength and conditioning coach Jim Whitten marvels at the
22,000-square foot space on the ground floor of the new multi-purpose
building that will be devoted to what he does for the Pirates — develop
their bodies for athletic competition.
Landscaping is being completed around the building positioned between
Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum and Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. It will be in
“The No. 1 thing about that building is all that it encompasses,” said
Whitten, who played defensive end at Virginia Tech in the late 1980s —
spanning the Hokies’ coaching transition between Bill Dooley and Frank
Beamer. “It enables us to do things we couldn’t do before. Weather dictated
what we could do before.”
The Pirates don’t have to go outside to do agility drills now. There’s a
section of field turf in the center of the first floor that will permit
those activities. No longer will ECU athletes have to brave the elements to
do sprints. A 56-yard running track will allows 40-yard dashes to be done
indoors. A special carpeted area is designed for plyometrics — jumping
exercises that develop explosive power. And there are enough weight machines
and barbells to work out a small army.
“I was at Virginia Tech a couple of weeks ago,” said Whitten, who still
bench presses 425 pounds. “I used to think their weight room was so great
and grand. I see what we have over here and I think we’ve outdone them a
Whitten said ECU’s old weight room on the first floor of the Ward Sports
Medicine Building was not representative of Pirates athletics, football in
“To have to show recruits a little weight room wasn’t a fair assessment
of what the program is,” Whitten said.
Whitten’s predecessor was Jeff Connors, who left for a similar position
at North Carolina when John Bunting became coach of the Tar Heels.
“That building (ECU's new S&C facility) is a tribute to what Coach
Connors worked for and good timing on my part,” Whitten said.
There is a feeling of open space and light in the weight room, which is
attributable to the sheer expanse of the layout, skylights and glassed
walls. Football players can work out in the weight room and gaze out into
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium where they will ultimately use the strength they are
Connors has been bashed by a segment of Pirates fans who see his move to
Chapel Hill as nothing less than treason. But Whitten appreciates the
foundation that Connors left.
“I’m a whole different person with a different coaching style,” Whitten
said. “I think the outside perception is that it has been a tough
transition. But, in house, the players have been great. When you come in
after someone who did a good job, it makes it a whole lot easier.”
Whitten is in effect the coach the players report to this time of year
and until preseason practice starts. NCAA regulations prohibit coaching by
members of the football staff during the offseason expect in spring drills.
During the conditioning phase, Whitten has to be wary of players taking
“In this job, some people try to figure ways to get around things,”
Whitten said. “In that way, it’s kind of like being a teacher. But the
majority of kids have the attitude that they want to get better.”
Whitten is working to get them better and staying in shape himself. The
Pirates strength coach, who was recommended to football coach Steve Logan by
Beamer, works out several times a week and plays racquetball with ECU
running backs coach Jerry McManus, whom Whitten said he seldom beats.
“Coach McManus had a mole on his head removed and had a bandage on his
head,” said the muscular Whitten. “The joke that was going around was that I
had taken out my racquetball frustrations on him.”
Herrion’s haul almost complete
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East Carolina men’s basketball coach Bill Herrion may wrap up recruiting
for next year’s incoming class by this weekend. The Pirates signed Luke
MacKay, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound native of Perth, Australia, to a letter of
intent on Tuesday.
Herrion recruited MacKay out of Lon Morris Junior College in
Jacksonville, Texas where he averaged about 15 points per game as a
freshman. MacKay missed most of this past season with a broken hand as his
team went 25-5 and won the Region XIV championship.
MacKay visited ECU when the Pirates hosted Cincinnati in their Conference
USA opener on Jan. 5, but MacKay subsequently made a verbal commitment to
Oregon State. His plans changed when Oregon State coach Ritchie McKay became
head coach at New Mexico. MacKay got in touch with the ECU basketball staff,
which was still looking for experienced shooting help.
“We’re getting a good basketball player who can shoot,” Herrion said.
“He’s a smart kid who fits what we need with this class, which is to
solidify our perimeter. It gives us more depth. He’ll be a solid player on
That leaves the Pirates with one scholarship. ECU is pursuing Derrick
Wiley of Moberly Junior College in Moberly, MO. Wiley is a 6-4 wing player
who visited Greenville about two weekends ago. He spent a portion of his
high school career in the Raleigh-Durham area.
If the Pirates don’t get Wiley, sources indicate there’s a player at
Connecticut who may be interested in transferring to ECU. That last
available scholarship may be awarded before the weekend.
Already signed are forward Corey Rouse of Kinston, guard Belton Rivers of
Atlanta Douglass and MacKay. One scholarship is being held for forward Jason
Herring, who is enrolled in school as a non-qualifier.
Wiley or the UConn transfer should nab the last scholarship and Herrion
will have accomplished his stated postseason goal — shoring up the perimeter
to go with a talented returning frontcourt that includes Gabriel Mikulas,
Moussa Badiane and Erroyl Bing.
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02/23/2007 12:57:29 AM