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The Bradsher Beat
Saturday, November 17, 2007

By Bethany Bradsher

McCarthy's influence taking hold

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Two years in a row, Darrell Jenkins and Taylor Gagnon have been on the losing end of a near-win against the Richmond Spiders. Both games went to overtime, and both times the East Carolina basketball team fell short.

But the similarities between the two games end there, both players said the day after ECU (1-1) fell to the Spiders 67-65 at Minges Coliseum. In the most important aspects of a team, the categories that can’t be quantified on a stat sheet, the 2007 Pirates are far ahead of the 2006 version, they said.

First of all, according to Gagnon, the team gave more effort on Tuesday than it gave last year at Richmond.

“It was tough, but I think one thing we take out of it is that we’re playing a lot harder this year than we were last year," he said. "The attitude around everybody is so much better this year. We know we gave that game away.”

Second, in a measure of how effectively new head coach Mack McCarthy has weaved unity and spirit into this group, Jenkins describes the main difference as how affected his teammates were by losing.

“Last year didn’t hurt as much as last night,” Jenkins said. “We had the game won a couple of times, but we made young errors. And the feeling is bad. It’s a feeling that we don’t want to feel anymore.”

With half of a slate of four season-opening home games still before them (Liberty on Saturday and N.C. Wesleyan on Tuesday) the Pirates have won one and lost one. But more important than the record at this point, said McCarthy, is the team’s openness to learn the lessons that come from each stop on the schedule.

The truth is, McCarthy often sees teams more transformed by the painful losses than by the wins, he said, provided they let the defeat stay with them enough to rub a season-long blister of determination and teachability.

“The Limestone game served a purpose,” McCarthy said on Wednesday. “But last night we certainly found out a whole lot more about competing at the level we’re going to competing against for the rest of the year.”

With McCarthy at the helm, Gagnon, a senior, said that he has sweated through his toughest workouts yet as a Pirate. And even though crucial shots didn’t fall in the homestretch against Richmond, the team was physically fit enough to keep battling. Gagnon also sees a different measure of confidence in his teammates as they take the floor believing that they can win on any given night.

“I think we know we have the ability this year, and we know we can play with these teams, and we know that we’re going to play night in and night out for Coach Mac,” Gagnon said. “We believe in the coaches, we believe in what they’re doing, and we know that if we keep pushing along we’re going to get some opportunities.”

McCarthy knows that the athletes on his squad have given him a vote of confidence with their intense effort. But now that weeks of practice have given way to games, he is hopeful that the results on the court will ignite that early flame of team unity and parlay it into more intensity and smarter play.

“I think they’ve bought into what we’ve asked them to do pretty well,” McCarthy said. Now, they’ve got to see some results in that. At some point in time, they’ve got to understand that what we’re doing is correct and efficient and worth all the work.”

The Pirates know exactly what they need to shake off the blues from the Richmond loss and move forward with an appropriate swagger, and it will be available Saturday night in the form of the Liberty Flames.

“We’re definitely excited about Saturday, to get this game off our chest and to try to get a win,” Jenkins said.

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11/17/2007 01:47:32 AM

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