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(Photo: ECU SID)
Terry Holland took the
popular path when he retained Mack McCarthy as East Carolina's
McCarthy was the fan
favorite to win the job after a season in which the Pirates beat George
Mason, N.C. State and Houston, and also notched a late-season winning
streak after all hope was seemingly lost.
But the most important
detail in Holland's latest coaching move isn't necessarily the choice
itself, rather the length of the contract under which McCarthy will
operate. In rewarding McCarthy with a five-year deal Holland made a
couple of significant statements about the Pirates coach:
One, he's confident that
East Carolina can turn the corner under McCarthy's direction.
Two, he understands that
such a shift in culture doesn't occur overnight, especially when you're
dealing with a program that has been identified with losing to the
degree that ECU hoops has.
Fans should take the same
approach. They should abandon the more customary M.O. in which strides
are expected at a much quicker rate than what reality typically
Just ask Clemson. Tiger
Nation had to wait a decade between NCAA Tournament appearances, and
half that was with current coach Oliver Purnell at the helm.
Given his credentials it
would have been tempting to expect the Tigers in the Dance earlier in
his tenure, despite the fact that the program slipped considerably
during Larry Shyatt’s watch. Instead, faith and perseverance has paid
dividends as Clemson is slowly evolving into a consistent force in the
Atlantic Coast Conference.
McCarthy deserves parallel
“There is no doubt in my
mind that the current staff, under Coach McCarthy's leadership, will
continue to move this basketball program forward,” Holland said in a
statement. “Therefore, we have developed a five-year contract with a
bonus structure that rewards our coach for continuing excellence in
already strong areas (academics and public relations) while also
creating a strong incentive to improve the "bottom line" - as defined by
C-USA wins and our expectations for continued improvement in
Good point about
rebounding, perhaps the most immediate hurdle the Pirates face.
The common theme in
college basketball is that guards and perimeter production are the
perfect prescription for March Madness. After all, it is the little guys
who often control the game's tempo and are the vocal and emotional
leaders of their teammates on the floor.
But if this season has
taught us anything, it's that balance is a must to rule in college
hoops. We saw it from a Duke club that lived and eventually died beyond
the arc, and closer to home with an ECU bunch that found success only
when the rims reacted favorably from long range.
The lack of any physical
presence inside put the Pirates at a noticeable deficit almost anytime
they exited the bus. It was a competitive gap that likely won't close
next season save for the appearance of a burly Juco gem or the dramatic
improvement of project Chad Wynn.
If sophomore Brock Young
steadily advances his game, the Pirates should have a stable backcourt
manned by capable scorers. But without a defensive presence down low
capable of altering shots and controlling the boards, it's unrealistic
to expect a dramatic increase in the win column next season.
It will take time for
McCarthy to fully indoctrinate his philosophies into the program.
Perhaps more than our fast food sports society is traditionally willing
The implementation of a
successful recruiting strategy, for example, doesn't take place
overnight, especially when doubt has hovered over the program's future
for much of the year. Finding players that are both talented and fit
within the system is a challenge for any school that isn't a major
The good news is McCarthy
has done it before. He did it at Chattanooga when he guided the Mocs to
the Sweet Sixteen. He also did it at Virginia Commonwealth, where he won
21 times in his final season.
If he can succeed at those
two destinations, why can’t he at East Carolina? And if Davidson and
Western Kentucky can play on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament,
is it reasonable to think the Pirates can, too?
Those are fair questions,
and there's no reason that both can't be answered favorably for ECU.
Time is the key. Given
that, a sound strategy and the appropriate resources, there's no reason
to think McCarthy can't succeed.