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View from the East
Thursday, February 27, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

J.T. staff goes "over the top" with final hiring


John Thompson waited like the quarterback he once was in high school back in Arkansas, and a receiver finally came open.

Well, actually, a receivers coach, the Clemson variety.

After several candidates had come and gone in what became a lengthy search for an offensive coordinator for Thompson's first staff at ECU, the best guy may have stepped aboard the Pirate ship after all.

Rick Stockstill.

If that name rings a distant bell in your memory, he was Florida State's starting quarterback in 1980 and 1981. The Seminoles brought turf home for their sod cemetery from LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame during that span. The Noles also laid a pretty healthy thumping on the Pirates in Tallahassee in the Stockstill era, 63-7, in 1980.

I remember watching that one. FSU looked like it was in a track meet — by itself.

Stockstill has been at Clemson the last 14 years. Head coaches have come and gone for the Tigers during that span but Stockstill has stood still, performing a variety of offensive roles, including co-offensive coordinator from 1993 to 1995. That says a lot about his people skills right there — that Danny Ford would hire him and three more coaches would retain him.

Thompson, who has stressed staff chemistry from the get-go, picked up on Stockstill's ability to mesh in an interview on Monday.

"Some of the other guys were more about 'Me,'" Thompson said of candidates for the offensive coordinator position. "He said he wanted to come in and work with 'Us.'"

Thompson's ECU coaching family is now complete and he expressed the hope at the Raleigh Sports Club on Wednesday that it will be together for a long time.

Family was a consideration for Stockstill in accepting the ECU job as well.

"Sunday was the first time I had ever been to Greenville," said Stockstill, who was accompanied by his wife, Sara. "I've had several friends here at Clemson who coached at East Carolina in the mid-1980s before they had done all the facilities expansions — Les Herrin, Ellis Johnson and Clyde Christensen. And I know Wayne Bolt, who had played at East Carolina. All of them couldn't say enough about what a great place Greenville was to raise a family."

Stockstill has a son, Brent, 8, and a daughter, Emily, 6.

Some assistants move to get a balance on their resumes. Stockstill stayed at Clemson and accomplished the same thing.

He worked in Danny Ford's triple option, the wishbone attack of Ken Hatfield, the three wideouts and two backs configuration that Tommy West used and the spread style that Tommy Bowden brought to Death Valley.

Unless ECU reverts to the single wing, Stockstill should have a working knowledge of practically anything the Pirates should desire to implement.

Spring practice will be a time to try and piece scheme and talent together. Thompson wants deep passing ability and a power running game because that's the toughest combination he's experienced as a defensive coordinator at various Conference USA and SEC programs. Every player at every position will be competing for a job.

Thompson said Wednesday that includes Paul Troth.

"We have three quarterbacks in the program and we can win with all three — Paul Troth, Desmond Robinson and James Pinkney," Thompson said. "We will play the best players. Whether Paul plays is up to Paul and I've told him that."

As the last hire for Thompson, Stockstill pushes the staff over the top. To attract a respected assistant from Clemson is significant. The fact that he was a player of some note is gravy. It's obvious that he can recruit when you consider that 10 of the players he has brought to Clemson in the last eight years have been drafted.

Thompson did a good job of recruiting recruiters to his coaching staff. Talent is the lifeblood of any football program. Defensive coordinator Jerry Odom is already establishing a Florida pipeline. Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes and defensive line coach Art Kaufman are established assistants.

There is youth. There is diversity.

And, finally, there's an offensive coordinator.

"I said all along the best guy was out there," Thompson said. "And there's no question we got the best guy out there. I got a couple of e-mails yesterday and they were from South Carolina people, saying, 'Please hire this guy. He has been a pain in our neck over the last few years.' He's a great recruiter."

And so is Thompson when it comes to recruiting coaches, it appears, now that the final piece of the puzzle is in place.

Ramblin' on Hamrick

ECU athletics director Mike Hamrick introduced Thompson at the Raleigh Sports Club and talked about the need for Pirates fans to believe and be committed. He said his grand-dad told him a story about a kamikaze pilot who flew 32 missions. "That boy was involved but he wasn't committed," his grandfather explained. ... Hamrick's son, Brett, played on the Greenville Rose junior varsity basketball team which went 17-0 this season.  ... Did you know that Hamrick once caddied for Sam Snead in the West Virginia Open? Slammin' Sammy gave him a $5 tip.  ... Hamrick said the ECU-N.C. State game in Charlotte in 2004 may be the last game of the regular season. The Pirates and the Wolfpack are scheduled to start a series after that with games every three years, alternating between Raleigh and Greenville.

Thompson entertains

Coach Thompson told the Raleigh Sports Club that his number had been retired at Central Arkansas, which is also the alma mater of NBA player Scottie Pippen.

"They put it on a basketball jersey and hung it up in the arena," Thompson said. "Scottie Pippen also wore '33' but I'll take it."

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Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:40:07 AM

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