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Don't miss Al Myatt's profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Tuesday, November 23, 2004

By Al Myatt

New coach, new league on Holland's to-do list

Bonesville Power Hour

Listen to the archived audio of last week's Bonesville Power Hour on WNCT-AM Talk 1070, during which John Thompson's dismissal as East Carolina's football coach was the prime topic: Select clip...

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Sources indicate that East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland has formed an inner circle consisting of senior associate AD Nick Floyd and former Pirate players George Koonce and Carlester Crumpler to interact with him in the search for John Thompson's successor as football coach.

Ideally, Holland would like to hire a current Division I-A head coach but he realizes the pool of candidates there will be limited.

"Our first option will be to seek a coach with a successful record at the Division I level," Holland said in a statement released in conjunction with Thompson's resignation announcement.

"It is apparent that this is a small pool of people and 99% of them are under long term contracts at their current institution," stated Holland. "Therefore, the pool of candidates will include coordinators at highly successful Division I A programs and highly successful head coaches from other Divisional levels."

Former Georgia coach Jim Donnan, who played quarterback at N.C. State and now works as an ESPN analyst, is atop the wish list of many Pirate fans. There is also a segment who would like to see Steve Logan return to the program he directed to five of the seven bowl berths it has received since joining Division I-A and a school record 59 wins.

Another name that has emerged is that of former N.C. State coach Mike O'Cain, now an assistant at Clemson, who is familiar with ECU as an assistant during Art Baker's regime.

Current I-A coaches Paul Johnson of Navy and embattled Pitt coach Walt Harris may be approached regarding their interest.

When it comes to coordinators, Neil Callaway, Georgia's offensive coordinator, has already sent out feelers on the ECU job, according to sources.

South Carolina running backs coach Dave Roberts, who also has served as the Gamecocks recruiting coordinator, has also expressed interest.

Holland has personal knowledge of Virginia offensive coordinator Ron Prince and some observers feel he has an inside track. Prince would become ECU's first minority head coach in a major sport, although some feel that Oakland Raiders assistant Jimmy Ray or Tennessee assistant Woody McCorvey, who interviewed at ECU in 2002, would be better suited for such a groundbreaking hire.

Southern Cal offensive coordinator Norm Chow apparently prefers the West Coast and William & Mary's Jimmye Laycock would not likely move because his wife's job will keep her in Williamsburg.

Holland can put together a lucrative package by previous ECU standards — in the $750,000 to $800,000 range. Hiring a good staff is vital and will require additional investment.

The urgency of righting the ship has compelled the Pirates to cobble together a hefty financial inducement for the right candidate at a time when sources indicate a $1.3 million projected shortfall is expected in the current athletic budget.

In real world terms, ECU can't afford not to make a significant outlay to find someone to restore the program, especially when the Big East Conference may dangle a football only membership to the Pirates as early as February.

Full membership in a "BCS" conference is one of Holland's stated goals but he said all options will have to be explored. Holland questioned how other sports would fare when he broached the subject of a partial Big East membership at a meeting of Pirate power brokers in Fayetteville earlier this month.

Coaching still on J.T.'s agenda

John Thompson plans to keep coaching, although where and in what capacity remain to be determined.

Thompson will reportedly get his full base salary of $150,000 annually for the remainder of his contract at East Carolina or $100,000 a year for that span if he finds other employment.

Thompson will have actively coached two seasons of a 5-year deal when the dust settles at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

ECU is already responsible for compensating former coach Steve Logan $200,000 annually through the end of 2005 under the terms of Logan's dismissal. ECU must pay Logan the difference between his earnings annually and $200,000 for the duration of his contract.

Logan has worked some as an analyst on Army football telecasts and as quarterbacks coach for the NFL Europe champion Berlin Thunder in 2004, but neither position has significantly reduced the financial commitment of the Pirates.

Although Thompson, the most-recently deposed Pirate football coach, is devoting his efforts to preparing his team to face N.C. State in Charlotte, he does plan to continue working after his termination takes effect following the clash with the Wolfpack.

"I'm going to work somewhere," Thompson said after practice on Monday. "I'm not going to sit around and do nothing. I'll stay in coaching, more than likely. That's all I know."

Thompson had thought he would raise sons Cabe and Hays in Greenville. His family will get top priority as Thompson contemplates his next move professionally.

"I'm going to be in tune with whatever's best for Charleen and the boys instead of staying in the rat race," Thompson said. "They've been great. I thought we would be here a long time. I don't want to move them again and again."

Thompson hasn't begun looking for other employment yet but he has stints as defensive coordinator at Florida, Arkansas and Southern Miss on his resume.

"I have no idea," Thompson said about where he might wind up, although Florida and apparently South Carolina will have staffs to hire. "I haven't talked to anybody. I have a job to do this week. I have not talked to anybody and will not talk anybody this week."

It's been one week today since new athletic director Terry Holland informed Thompson of his decision on Thompson's status. Holland made the move after evaluating an ECU program which is 3-19 in the Thompson era.

Senior associate AD Nick Floyd was also in Holland's office last Tuesday afternoon when Thompson was informed of the results of a meeting between Chancellor Steve Ballard and Holland on Monday.

Thompson coached practice that Tuesday afternoon and Pirates offensive coordinator Noah Brindise said he thought it was unusual that Thompson spent some time during ECU's workout talking on his cell phone.

Brindise soon found out why.

"I told the staff Tuesday night," Thompson said. "I felt that was important to go ahead and do that because we felt it was going to get out. I wanted to give them an opportunity to tell their wives and children before they read it in the papers or saw it on TV.

"It did get out."

Talk Radio 1070 am in Greenville, home of the Bonesville Power Hour, actually broke the story on Wednesday morning.

Holland wanted to hold a news conference on Thursday but Thompson wanted to go ahead and make it official on Wednesday afternoon. Thompson announced his resignation on Wednesday, although Holland was not on hand because he attended ECU's basketball win over Pepperdine in Raleigh.

The Pirates have been trying to focus on a rival matchup despite upheaval in the program and the disappointment of a 38-35 loss to Memphis in Thompson's last home game as head coach at ECU.

"We just want to go out and make some plays and play a complete game," Thompson said of his grand finale in the Queen City. "We had so many opportunities against Memphis and just didn't make the plays to win the game.

"N.C. State has got the best defense in the country and we have to do some things to keep them off-balance. T.A. McLendon runs very, very hard. I've always liked what they do on offense. They give you a lot of mismatches. Our problem is that we have to adjust.

"We just want to play a complete game just once and make plays when the game depends on it."

Thompson said he plans to follow the Pirates even after he's no longer coaching them.

"Absolutely," he said. "I'll always have an obligation to these players. It's so important that we finish the job here and leave the job here in the right way."

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02/23/2007 12:46:52 AM
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