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Read Henry Hinton's feature story on veteran Hollywood actress and ECU alum Beth Grant in Bonesville Magazine.

Henry's Highlights
Thursday, February 17, 2005

By Henry Hinton

New sheriff in town will do it his way

©2005 Bonesville.net

Replay the audio archive of Wednesday's Talk of The Town with Henry Hinton and guests Skip Holtz and Mike Steele: Select clip

Skip Holtz is enjoying his honeymoon. The first year Pirate football coach has had time to let his new job and new surroundings sink in and so far he likes what he sees.

Following John Thompson’s 1-11 and 2-9 seasons, Holtz realizes East Carolina football fans are hoping for something to get excited about.

“It’s a nine-month honeymoon,” Holtz said in an exclusive interview on Talk of the
Town
Wednesday afternoon. The drive-time program airs daily on Talk1070 and Cable 7 in Greenville.

Holtz has been charged with picking up the pieces of a program that has been rocked with controversy, a fan base that became divided and a fading tradition.

One of his first jobs has been to rebuild relationships with high school coaches inside the state — coaches who have been left scratching their heads the last two years.

First came the 2002 Friday night fiasco, when the state’s high school association said ECU didn't bother to notify it when it decided to renege on a promise not to play any more games on Fridays, the night generally reserved for high school contests.

That was followed after that season by Thompson’s strange strategy, upon taking over the program, to recruit Florida first, leaving many high school coaches wondering why an eastern North Carolina university was no longer interested in local players.

Holtz says there have definitely been fences to mend but after just completing his first recruiting period he says ECU has reached out to high schools in the state and received positive response.

He admits there have been hard feelings toward the Pirate program.

“There are, without a doubt,” he said. “I made the comment when I got the job here we were going to recruit North Carolina. We want to get around to every high school in the state. We have seven coaches working North Carolina, which means each guy has about forty schools.”

BONESVILLE
INFO BOX


Under Skip Holtz, East
Carolina will veer back
towards its in-state
recruiting roots. That
recruiting process will
be carried out by one
of the region's more
experienced coaching
staffs.

ECU's assistant coaches
and years on the
sidelines as full-time
college coaches:

Donne Thompson
   Def. Line/Asst. HC
   30 years
Rick Smith
   Defensive Backs
   24 years
Steve Shankweiler
   Off. Line/Off. Coord.
   22 years
Donnie Kirkpatrick
   Wide Receivers
   21 years
Greg McMahon
   T. Ends, Spec. Teams
   20 years
'Rock' Roggeman
   Linebackers
   18 years
Greg Hudson, DC
   Def. Coordinator
   15 years
Clifford Snow
   Dir. of Operations
   10 years
Junior Smith
   Running Backs
   7 years
Phil Petty
   Offensive Assistant
   0 years

Total: 167 years
+ Skip Holtz: 18 years
Grand Total: 185 years

“We’re going to be in and out of those schools bridging relationships. A lot of coaches are saying, ‘We haven’t seen anybody from East Carolina in four years.' ”

Holtz believes that turning East Carolina’s fortunes around requires bringing in the right kids.

“When we went out, we were looking for academics, we were looking for character and we were looking for players we could build a program with,” Holtz said. “ We want players who are going to be in the program for five years so we need guys we can build a solid foundation with.”

Holtz makes no bones about the fact that he has a stated philosophy opposite of Thompson’s when it comes to recruiting. He wants coaches and players in North Carolina to know that they are first on his priority list.

“For us this is where we have to start,” Holtz says of North Carolina. “There are people to help us achieve our academic and athletic goals right here in the state. Once we go through the state and we feel we are finding the people who can help us achieve our goals, then we’ll leave the state. That’s when we’ll head to Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. But we’re not going to make this a Florida school.”

On a personal note, Holtz and his wife have just put a house under contract in Greenville and plan to close on it in a few weeks. He jokingly said “she” bought the house due to his schedule and focus on his new challenge at ECU.

He says things are calming down now that the recruiting period has ended and he has completed the hiring of his staff.

Holtz admits, however, that he still is in the process of learning everyone’s name.

“Guys are still walking into my office and I have to say, 'Now what is your name again —what year are you — what position do you play?' ”

In spite of the slower pace of the last few days, Holtz, formerly an avid golfer, has yet to pick up his clubs and try any of the courses in Pitt County.

That will change on April 1, when Holtz will play in the Greenville Police Department’s Tournament to benefit the Special Olympics at Bradford Creek Golf Course.

Holtz has agreed to be auctioned off to one of the participating teams on a live broadcast of Talk of the Town the last week of March.

Interested golfers should contact either Greenville Police or Talk 1070 (henry@talk1070.com) to sign up a team of four golfers for $250. Each team will have the chance to phone in a bid to have Holtz play with them.

As for football, the question on everyone’s mind is 'How long will it take for ECU to become competitive again?’

Holtz is too smart to make a prediction but believes he and his staff are building a system that has a chance to turn the program around.

“We’re not going to change it because we have recruited guys that are two inches taller or two steps faster,” he says. “The only way to change it is to change the attitude.

"I’m anxious to put on the pads and get started. I know we have a long way to go, but the way these guys are approaching it is very encouraging.”

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02/23/2007 10:16:05 AM

 

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