Take on Pirate Basketball
From the Anchor Desk
Friday, December 28, 2001
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9
New Year Brings Back
Pirate Hoops Memories
The upcoming week is
many at East Carolina have waited for for a long time.
The Pirates wanted
“big-time” basketball. Soon, that ”big-time” will be here.
Conference USA play a week from Saturday when
perennial power Cincinnati comes to Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
Saturday Night Live
used to feature the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” With the Bearcats
lurking around the corner, Bill Herrion must be
thinking he's hosting the show next week.
But perhaps these
Pirates are ready!
Herrion and company aren't a threat to win the Conference USA title this
year. But given time, I believe Coach Herrion will get the job done.
Friend in Town
Herrion is much like
former Pirate Coach Mike Steele. In fact, these two have clicked on a nice
Pirates didn’t win a whole lot of games, but his teams always played hard.
That’s the same type of team that Bill Herrion is building at East Carolina.
Some of my best
memories in sportscasting came when I worked with Coach Steele. Steele has
a tremendous energy and a great personality. He is a true “people-person”,
and he implemented some very different programs at East Carolina.
In his first couple
of seasons, Coach Steele would conduct a “chalk-talk” before each home game.
Believe it or not, Steele would lecture to a group of Pirate fans about 45
minutes before tip-off.
He would go over the
keys to the game, the things to look for both offensively and defensively.
These sessions had
to be difficult late in the season, when the losses doubled the wins. Still,
Coach would be there, smile and all, trying to sell his program.
Coach Steele and I
actually sold all of the advertising for The Mike Steele Show one
season. There are classic stories about how Steele and I went from business
to business, selling the advertising for the show.
Steele was amazing,
and I really wish that he would have had more success at East Carolina. He
was, however, voted the “Man of the Year” by the Greenville Jaycees.
At practice one day,
I watched as Steele really got on his struggling team hard. At one point,
Steele spiked his whistle to the coliseum floor. Unfortunately, it wasn’t
his whistle that he pounded the floor with. Steele had actually fired his
watch to the wooden floor at Minges.
When I saw that he
wasn’t looking, I scampered over and picked up about a thousand pieces of
his watch. At the banquet that year, I presented Coach Steele with a plaque.
It read, “Coach
Steele’s Practice Whistle.” It included all one thousand pieces of the
watch, and the date. That plaque still hangs in his office today!
I’ve also worked
with Coach Steele in Special Olympics for a number of years. Steele’s
youngest son, Drew, is as special as an Olympian can be, and I truly enjoy
every meeting I have with Mr. Drew.
I still refer to
Steele as Coach Steele. To me, it’s a matter of respect. I think he still
enjoys being called “Coach.”
Steele was later
fired by the school, took a break, and then made a great name for himself in
the insurance business, staying in Greenville.
Coach Steele is
still a regular at Pirate basketball games. You’ll usually find him in the
same corner in the student section for most every game, sitting near his
Losing a Legend
Pirate fans lost a
true legend on Christmas Day, with the passing of W.M. “Booger” Scales at
the age of 77.
Scales took a liking
to Coach Steele when the coach first came to Greenville. And when Coach
Steele looked for a new career, it was the Scales family that took him under
their wings. Steele took advantage of the opportunity and has become a
major success as a part of The Insurers Group in Greenville.
I first met “Booger”
as a guest at his annual “Gaylord Day” in the Fall. “Booger” honored Gaylord Perry
each year with a big bar-b-cue, which sometimes turned into more of a
political get together than a sports event.
“Booger” was perhaps
the ultimate “people person.” When it came to fund raising, Scales had no
peer. He was the absolute best of the best, and we all are better people for
knowing Mr. Scales.
sympathies go out to the Scales family. But you had better believe that
“Booger” will be keeping up with the sports scene in
Eastern North Carolina
from the best seat in the clouds!
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