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Bailey's Take on Pirate Hoops

From the Anchor Desk
Friday, March 8, 2002
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9


Unique Twist: Losing Season with a Winning Feel


Herrion's Big Project Gets Off the Ground

The basketball season is over.

The basketball program, though, is just beginning.

This 2001-2002 Pirate basketball team didn’t win a championship. But it did so many things that will help East Carolina hoops to move on to the next level.

Bill Herrion worked his tail off all year long. Through thick and thin, Herrion never lost focus and his team played with that same type of intensity.

Though the program isn’t close to where the Pirate coach wants it to be, the season was a great ride, an investment that will soon pay dividends in Conference USA.

I remember the days leading up to the first-ever league game, when ECU hosted Cincinnati. Bill Herrion was worried. He honestly didn’t know if his team could stay on the floor with the league’s best team.

Sometimes coaches give you a dose of “coach-speak”, a line of bull just to be quoted. Herrion was absolutely honest.

On the record and off the record, Herrion feared the worst.

“What we have to find out and find out soon is to what level we are looking at as far as talent goes,” said Herrion back in January. “Are we one player away, five players away, can anyone play in this league?”

Herrion’s worst fear was for a huge crowd to come out for the game, and the Pirates to lose by forty, or worse.

But on that night, it was East Carolina that took the fight to the Bearcats, building a nice lead in the first half. The Pirates eventually lost by ten, but some of the questions were answered.

Dance Invitation Might Be in Store During Mikulas, Bing Era

Other questions would be answered in the next several weeks. Could this team win a league game? Could this team beat a ranked team? Could this team win on the road?

O.K., two out of three isn’t bad.

Coach Herrion told me that if the league had offered him five wins in Conference USA before the season started, he would have taken them and ran.

The Pirates had a winning record at home in this powerhouse league in their very first year. The win over then 9th-ranked Marquette was the obvious highlight of the season.

Winning on the road is something that mature basketball teams find a bit easier. This is a very young Pirate squad. Winning away from Williams Arena will serve as the next big hurdle for this team to master.

Gabriel Mikulas and Erroyl Bing will only get stronger and better in the off season. These two young men are the cornerstones of Bill Herrion’s big project.

Moussa Badiane was an All-Freshman selection from C-USA for 2002. Moussa was a force on defense, especially when the Pirates ran their 2-3 zone.

Badiane has already told me that he can’t wait to get into the weight room, to add as much muscle as possible for next season.

This first ever experience in the league was a wild ride for sure. Looking back, I think Bill Herrion can see progress in every corner.

This program has proven that it can compete in Conference USA. This team will someday compete for championships.

How soon that someday gets here is anybody’s guess. Coach Herrion may not say it, but you get the feeling that he would like nothing more than to see Mikulas and Bing lead this team to an NCAA tournament bid before the pair leaves ECU.

It could happen, but it’s going to take a lot of work.

And that’s Bill Herrion’s favorite thing to do!

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Click here to dig into Brian Bailey's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:22:38 AM

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