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Bailey's 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 one that many at East Carolina have waited for for a long time.

The Pirates wanted “big-time” basketball. Soon, that ”big-time” will be here.

ECU opens 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!

Granted, Coach 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 early friendship.

Coach Steele’s 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 favorite sportscaster.

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.

Our deepest 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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02/23/2007 01:20:02 AM

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