Insights and Observations
Monday, January 30, 2006
By Henry Hinton
Stars may be aligning for
upturn in ECU hoops
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Ricky Stokes says East
Carolina's season-to-date reminds him of the first year he was Dave Odom’s
assistant coach at Wake Forest. That team struggled early but finished the
With that in mind,
ECU's 59-45 Saturday night victory over Tulsa
was the start of something good.
This team needed
something good to happen. By most standards, the 2005-06 Pirates have been a
disappointment. Even Athletics Director Terry Holland felt the need to weigh
one of his open letters to Pirate fans
this past week.
“While the most visible
results are not immediate, the foundation being laid at this time will
produce results,” Holland wrote in his letter on
this is still a team that lost the two leading scorers from last year's team
that won a total of seven games versus Division I competition while losing
19,” the letter continues.
Skeptics could accuse the
AD of making excuses for his new coach, and some already are saying that.
However, Holland is right
on target. He goes on to point out the lack of success and tradition in
basketball at ECU.
Former Pirate coaches
have been known to affectionately refer to the home of the Pirates as the
Minges Burial Ground. Only one former Pirate coach, Eddie Payne, has gone on
to a bigger head coaching job after spending years in Greenville.
Certain members of the
media and friends of Payne use to joke with him about his success in talking
then-AD Dave Hart into allowing him to downgrade the schedule enough to
allow him to get enough wins to escape — which he did to Oregon State years
Stokes has been around
the block. He knew the challenge when he accepted Holland’s offer to come to
Greenville. Having been a head coach at Virginia Tech and an assistant at
UVA, Wake and South Carolina, Stokes had everything to gain to accept his
mentor’s offer to get back on the sideline as the head man, even at a school
that has struggled at every level in the college basketball world.
ECU has seven regular
season games remaining, three of which will be played at home. All of them
are winnable or at least games in which the Pirates could be competitive.
Playing on the road has
been an Achilles heel of every ECU team, particularly since joining
Conference USA. Three of the four road games left are against teams that are
newcomers to the league (Marshall, Rice, Central Florida), giving hope that
Stokes team can get that first elusive conference win away from home.
In addition Marshall,
Tulane and Houston will be coming to Minges in the final three home games of
the year. All of them are teams ECU could beat with a strong effort and a
good home crowd.
In his letter Holland
promises that “our time will come.”
That is a promise that
Pirate fans have heard many times before. Becoming competitive in basketball
in a state where the hoops are king is easier said than done.
While the current Pirates
play hard and seem to have a lot of heart,
recruiting bigger and better players will
be necessary before a real turnaround can be realized in basketball at ECU.
This time around,
however, there is hope that having a basketball coaching legend overseeing
the bigger picture will create a different outcome.
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04/21/2008 07:03:47 PM