Insights and Observations
Monday, September 26, 2005
By Henry Hinton
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The old saying is “there
are no moral victories.” That is the proper thing to say and so Skip Holtz
did after East Carolina came up just short in Morgantown on Saturday.
But let’s face it.
Victories, moral or otherwise, have been rare for ECU football recently.
So this time, regardless
of how you label it, it's accurate to say the Pirates took another step
toward respectability in their 20-15 loss to West Virginia.
When you look at the
shape of the ECU program at the end of the 2004 season, it was clear that
the program was in no shape to challenge a Big East-style team. That is
undoubtedly why Terry Holland felt he had to make the move on John Thompson.
It appears there is more
than sideline coaching at work here. It is clear the players are finally
sick and tired of being sick and tired. That is usually the necessary
phenomenon that must take place before the corner can be turned. The Pirates
are playing like a group of guys who feel that way.
It would have been easy
to take a “Here we go again” attitude after the Wake Forest game, but this
coaching staff would hear none of that. Preparations for West Virginia took
place with an expectation that the Pirates could be competitive in the game.
Be competitive. Winning will eventually take care of itself.
Honestly, there was not
one soul who really felt ECU could actually defeat West Virginia in
Morgantown. That is what makes the accomplishment of a 5-point defeat that
much more important and impressive.
As the game wore on, it
became obvious that the Pirate players and coaches were out to change all
that. They believed they could win. The ECU defense dominated WVU in the
second half. That is a tribute to that unit's will.
We should also mention
the fact that the Pirates looked better conditioned than did the Mounties. A
tip of the hat goes to strength and conditioning coach Mike Golden and his
staff as well.
Bonesville Magazine, we recently pointed out the similarities in
what Terry Holland is accomplishing in the athletic department at ECU and
other successful turnaround managers in business.
It is generally believed
that an organization going downhill will continue downhill until significant
changes in management and philosophy take place. East Carolina athletics
might be a great case study for a future Harvard Business Review.
Holland, as CEO, has
changed the mid-level managers, who in turn have brought in fresh ideas and
new philosophies. But more than that, the troops (players) seem willing to
follow the new leader (Skip Holtz) with a renewed attitude that is providing
Its much like the famous
old black and white movie starring Gregory Peck, "12 O’clock High." It’s a
World War II movie that opens with the commanding officer of a bomber pilot
unit that complains his group is losing the war because there are not enough
men and equipment to fight the requested battles. His men are tired and
taking on many casualties and losses. They simply cannot do more. He tells
Washington it appears hopeless. They are asking too much of his unit.
The Pentagon steps in and
looks at the situation and believes that the commander is over-identifying
with his troops, a sure sign that they are leading him instead of him
leading them. The troubled commander is reassigned and taken away from the
Enter Peck. Peck’s
character, General Frank Savage, is put in charge and proceeds to change the
attitude of the troops and the philosophies of the attack. He instills pride
and a desire to achieve beyond the normal standards. An instant turnaround
takes place and the positive results are immediate. The unit begins
defeating the Germans, which leads to victory.
Where is Gregory Peck
when you need him? Perhaps General Savage would have some ideas about how to
penetrate the Southern Miss defense. Then again, perhaps East Carolina’s own
General Savage (Holtz) can design just that type of attack.
Well, this is no movie.
But right now, Holland along with Holtz and his staff and the ECU players
are in the midst of the turnaround. The results are evident.
Yes, losing close hurts.
But honestly, losing to Wake by 10 and West Virginia by just 5 puts this
team in a positive position to start their league run. ECU is healthy and
mentally tough enough to make some noise in C-USA.
It’s true that no coach
wants moral victories.
The thing about moral
victories, however, is that they are much more positive and mean more to the
future than moral defeats, which is what the program has had plenty of the
last few years.
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04/21/2008 07:04:56 PM