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CHRONICLING ECU & C-USA SPORTS
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View from the 'ville
Thursday, May 29, 2008

By Al Myatt

McCarthy thinking long-term fixes

By Al Myatt
©2007 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

Gabe Blair has concluded that transferring from East Carolina is his best move. Superficially, it would seem to be another blow for a program that last had a winning season in 1996-97.

Mack McCarthy hasn't exactly had a stroll through the park since agreeing to a five-year contract. ECU lost a scholarship and had its weekly practice time reduced from 20 hours to 18 by the NCAA in response to the program's academic progress rate.

Blair started 29 games for the Pirates during his sophomore season. He averaged 23.2 minutes, 7.7. points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds.

But Blair felt he was playing out of position at ECU. He sees himself as a power forward or a small forward. He played the five or center spot for the Pirates.

"The thing I hate about players leaving a program – any player – is we need stability and continuity," McCarthy said. "Players leaving keep us from having that.

"We need it in all phases. We need it in our coaching staff. We need it in student development. We need it in sports medicine.

"We need stability and continuity all the way through the program. We need it in strength and conditioning. There are going to be changes but we need the core of folks to be the same and hopefully the commitment to me will initiate some of that stability we need."

After serving a season on an interim basis and producing an 11-19 record that included a home win over N.C. State, McCarthy was given a five-year contract following the 2007-08 season.

Blair became the third player to leave the program since McCarthy's interim status was resolved. He follows reserve guard Brandon Evans and sophomore post player John Fields, who felt the grass would be greener at UNC Wilmington.

Following the departures of Evans and Fields, McCarthy signed 6-foot-8 Darrius Morrow from Columbus, GA, and 6-5 Chis Turner out of Humble, TX.

Then Blair confirmed his plans to transfer earlier this week.

"The immediate impact is that we lose a 6-8 guy who started for two years and has some experience," McCarthy said. "It puts a big onus on Chad Wynn to get better, Daquan Joyner to get better, on Jamar Abrams to get better and Darrius Morrow to play right away.

"I think all four of them are capable of doing those things."

Blair's exit frees up a scholarship but McCarthy emphasizes the need to be judicious in bringing in another player.

"Again, because of the lack of stability, we don't need to take anybody that isn't good enough to succeed here or really wants to be here," McCarthy said. "We've got to have that combination. We can't just go throw a scholarship offer out there to somebody to fulfill a short term need.

"We've got to make some long term decisions here because that's how we're going to approach this thing."

While McCarthy seeks to maximize the talent level within the program, he feels that progress is being made in some vital areas other than personnel.

"We've got a more solid strength and conditioning philosophy," said the Pirates coach. "They way we travel is optimum to success on and off the floor. We've got an outstanding staff – two guys who have been head coaches and another guy who's going to be a star. Another guy will be added in the near future."

It will take more than a few transfers to curb McCarthy's enthusiasm as he goes about the process of building the ECU hoops program.

"I'm really, really excited," he said. "And the fans seem to be excited. Now that's got to translate into performance. We've got to do a more consistent job on the floor. We can't lose to Lee one night and beat N.C. State another night.

"We've got to be more consistent with our performance. Some of that is due to talent and some of that is due to the fact that we've never consistently won. Which comes first? You could argue that all day."

McCarthy says the Pirate Nation needs to accept its share of responsibility to the development of the program in terms of their support.

"Our fans have to be consistent," he said. "We can't have Clemson in here and not sell this place out. We've got to make this place a great home court every night. Whether we're playing Memphis or playing Tulane, we've got to pack this place on a consistent basis."

Again, there would seem to be a question of the potential sequence of events.

"Whether we've got to win before they come or they've got to come before we win I don't even know, but we each have to do our part," McCarthy said. "Our fans are great. They're enthusiastic. When we get this place filled, it's as good a homecourt as any in the country.

"We've got to fill it regularly – just like they did with football last year. The administration here threw down the gauntlet, made an attractive schedule and football sold out for the year. We've got to move in the same direction in basketball."

Bucs' bats need to get busy

East Carolina's offense didn't measure up in the Conference USA baseball tournament as the Pirates managed just nine runs in three games in New Orleans. ECU (40-19) is seeded second for a four-team regional which starts Friday at Coastal Carolina.

The Pirates, who made the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons, begin the double-elimination regional in Conway, SC, at 7 p.m. on Friday against Alabama (34-26).

Host Coastal (47-12), the top seed, will play fourth-seeded Columbia (22-28) at 1 p.m. on Friday.

ECU coach Billy Godwin was looking at the positives as he prepared the Pirates to face the Crimson Tide on the diamond for the first time. ECU left for the regional site after practice in Greenville on Wednesday.

"For us, it's a bus trip and it's close enough that a lot of our fans can be there to cheer us on," Godwin said.

Although ECU's bats were too often silent in the C-USA event last week, the Pirates did get a win over Rice, the No. 6 national seed, and lost twice to Houston, the eventual league tournament champion and a No. 3 seed for this weekend's regional at Texas A&M.

All three of ECU's games in the C-USA Tournament were decided by one run.

"We pitched and played defense the best we had all year," Godwin said. "We didn't swing the bat as well as we have though. ... We're going to have to play all three phases of the game well to win."

The Pirates averaged 7.8 runs per game and will likely face Alabama junior right-hander Austin Hyatt in their opener. Hyatt was 4-4 with a 4.64 earned run average.

In his last start, Hyatt turned in a complete game in a 5-2 win over Georgia, the Southeastern Conference regular season champion. Hyatt held the Bulldogs to four hits and retired 20 straight batters during one dominating span.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

05/29/2008 01:41:28 AM
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