College Sports in the Carolinas
Don't miss Al Myatt's
profile of ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the current
from the East
February 28, 2005
By Al Myatt
Criticism of Holland's
methods off base
Terry Holland stood courtside following East
76-72 loss to Houston on Saturday
night and politely clapped.
The gesture by the East Carolina athletic
director may have been perceived as puzzling to a degree, considering it had
been less than a week since Holland had
fired Pirates basketball coach Bill Herrion.
What was there to applaud exactly? ECU's
effort? Maybe that the loss proved Terry right in dismissing Herrion?
Holland was not as condescending as he may
have appeared now that he has defended himself in light of recent public
Six years into his service at ECU without a
winning season to show for it, Herrion was called to a meeting last Tuesday
with Holland and senior associate athletic director Nick Floyd. The
discussion apparently has had some significantly different consequences than
those intended by the Pirates AD.
Herrion was informed as the trio met in
private that he would not be continuing as basketball coach after the end of
the season, a decision Holland has since indicated he made in part to
alleviate unhealthy pressure to win that had existed within the program all
season because of the uncertainty of Herrion's future at the Pirate helm.
Herrion has said himself he had figured Holland's axe was a 50-50 shot going
back to December.
"Not enough wins," said Herrion, 70-98 at ECU
after going 121-32 at Drexel with three mid-1990s trips to the NCAA
Herrion apparently had asked to be made aware
of his job status as soon as a decision was made. Holland complied and
offered Herrion an opportunity to continue working within the ECU family in
a special fundraising capacity. Holland wanted the coach to take some time
and consider that option. The discussion between Holland, Floyd and Herrion
apparently was supposed to remain confidential.
But word got out — the substance of the
get-together being reported by WNCT-TV 9 — and the media was soon awash with
(Channel 9 sports director Brian Bailey is
regular columnist for
The breaking of the story prompted an official
ECU release later last Tuesday confirming that Herrion was being terminated
as hoops coach with an option to remain at the university in another
Herrion's public response after a
77-66 win over Southern Miss on
Wednesday night was that he was a basketball coach, not a fundraiser.
Herrion asked media to focus on the win and
not his firing in his postgame news conference on Wednesday.
Herrion has since characterized the timing of
the decision as a distraction to his team as the Pirates try to qualify for
the Conference USA Tournament as one of the top 12 teams in the standings
among the league's 14 basketball programs.
Replay the postgame remarks of Bill Herrion and players after
East Carolina's 76- 72 Saturday night
loss to Houston (digitally recorded by
Select audio clip
If Herrion violated the confidence of the
meeting, then he is the culprit of the situation and not the victim as he
portrayed his program after the loss to Houston in his final home game on
If the substance of the meeting was leaked by
someone other than Herrion, then the Pirates' long-struggling basketball
program is not the only problem ECU needs to address.
Herrion said the decision "hurts" and he was
"confused" by it following a tough loss to the Cougars.
Holland sought to eliminate confusion in an
open response to a particular critic.
Holland's response was posted on ECU's official website,
ecupirates.com, on Sunday and does a
good job of putting some of the missing pieces on the situation into place.
Some fans wore "Fire Holland" T-shirts to
ECU's game on Saturday night and Pirate partisans warmly cheered Herrion's
arrival on the court. It's unusual for a fired coach to get that kind of
sendoff and Herrion's efforts are deserving. Still, the fans' perceptions
have to a degree been orchestrated by Herrion's post-Tuesday spin.
In fairness to the hard-working Herrion, he
faced an uphill battle to bring the Pirates to a competitive level in C-USA.
Perhaps he's still working, trying to give his players a motivational edge
going into a crucial league game at Tulane this Saturday.
Herrion feels he's done a lot of things well
in representing the Pirates and he has. He's taken some tough stances on
academic performance. When he has won, it has occasionally been against the
"brand names" of C-USA with lesser talent motivated by the support within
Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
Attendance remained strong for the program —
5,705 for a 9-18 team on Saturday night.
Personally, I like Bill Herrion. He's done a
good job at times of competing at a football/baseball school with less
talent, resources and tradition than those enjoyed by many of his current
league adversaries. He had a lot of young players who may be on the
threshold of breaking out in a watered-down C-USA next season.
I would have liked to have seen him get
another season, but Holland, without firsthand knowledge of the program's
extenuating circumstances during the Herrion era, decided otherwise.
In the final analysis, Herrion hasn't treated
Holland fairly if the coach indeed asked to be made aware of his job status
when a determination was made. Holland apparently made his evaluation and
The Pirates AD had been cast in the bad guy's
role in his reticence but did a good job of explaining the basis and
intentions of his actions regarding Coach Herrion.
A similar situation arose in football when
John Thompson was dismissed with two games remaining. Thompson wanted to
tell his staff immediately and with that many people in the loop, an
announcement was scheduled. With only three at the meeting involving
Herrion, the plan was to keep the matter quiet until the coach advised how
he wanted to proceed.
Obviously, the plan didn't work out as the
news quickly spread.
So there was Holland, diplomatically cheering
and clapping at courtside at the close of the Houston game, actions that
appeared inconsistent at the time in terms of his treatment of Herrion.
His gestures were entirely appropriate
in light of his post Sunday. Holland
is seeing the bigger picture and perhaps he is addressing a case of coaching
burnout before it reaches a dangerous stage.
Keep applauding the Pirates, Terry. Now that
we understand a little better, we should applaud you.
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02/23/2007 12:33:06 AM