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Pirates take care of business for departing coach


   • Postgame Audio: Herrion, Rouse & Badiane

   • Associated Press Game Story
   • Al Myatt Game Analysis
   • Box Score
   • Game-by-Game Schedule, Scores, Attendance

AP Sports Writer

GREENVILLE — Mike Cook saw the shot clock winding down and had no choice. With his teammates urging him on, he launched a 3-pointer from about 30 feet, and it rattled through.

This clearly was East Carolina's night. Too bad coach Bill Herrion didn't have more of them.

Corey Rouse had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Cook added 19 points, leading the Pirates past Southern Mississippi 77-66 on Wednesday night in their first game since Herrion was told he won't be back next season.

``I didn't know if they were going to play great or stink,'' the affable coach said after the game. ``Thank God, they played great.''

Athletic director Terry Holland and senior associate AD Nick Floyd asked Herrion to step down during a Tuesday morning meeting, and Herrion turned down their offer of a job raising money for the athletic department.

``I'm not a fund-raiser, I'm a basketball coach,'' Herrion said. ``I've never done anything else in my professional life except coach basketball and be in a gym. I'm a gym rat. This is what I want to do.''

Moussa Badiane finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks and two steals for East Carolina (9-17, 4-10 Conference USA), which won for the second time in three games.

Michael Ford scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half, but couldn't stop the Golden Eagles (10-16, 1-13) from losing their seventh straight. Jarekus Singleton had 16 points.

Herrion strolled to the court with about a minute left in pre-game warmups, and his appearance was greeted warmly by the fans. He acknowledged their applause with a wave, then went down to welcome Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy.

The conversation lasted about a minute and actually ran into the beginning of the player introductions. Herrion did most of the talking.

``He'll be back, I've been fired,'' Eustachy said. ``It happens to everybody. He might end up in a better situation.''

Later, when the cheerleaders were trying to orchestrate a chant of ``Purple'' and ``Gold'' during a timeout, the crowd instead used ``Bill'' and ``Herrion.'' The coach obviously is loved by the students, who fill most of the lower level at Williams Arena in Minges Coliseum for nearly every game and stand throughout.

He was met by about 75 of them when he emerged from the locker room after the game, and nearly everyone took turns patting him on the back and yelling encouragement.

``It really felt good,'' Herrion said. ``It felt great to be wanted and to be appreciated. This place has been special to me and my family for six years. The fans here have been so supportive.''

Herrion certainly will leave his successor with plenty of talent, assuming everyone stays. The Pirates have only one senior on the roster — Badiane — and four freshmen figure prominently in the rotation.

With changes in Conference USA in 2005-06 — current powers Louisville, Cincinnati, Charlotte and DePaul, among others, are leaving for other conferences — the new coach should have a chance to win. That hasn't happened often for East Carolina, which has reached the NCAA tournament only twice in its basketball history, the last time in 1993.

``Whoever comes in here, they're going to win games next year,'' Herrion said. ``That's a promise.''

The Pirates broke from a tie at 51 with three consecutive 3-pointers by Japhet McNeil, Tom Hammonds and Cook. Then Cook provided the exclamation point with his desperation shot.

That made it 74-62 in the final 2 minutes, and East Carolina cruised from there to give Herrion a bit of a going away present.

``We've been trying to avoid the subject,'' Badiane said. ``You can't really control it as a player. We just tried to focus on the game. The season is still going.''

Eustachy agreed that Herrion's dismissal had little affect on the game.

``Players don't care,'' Eustachy said. ``Very few players really care about their coach. Players always worry about themselves. It's changed.''

ECU's next game — Herrion's final one in front of the home crowd — is Saturday, when it hosts C-USA foe Houston at 7 p.m.

The Pirates, still in the mix for one of the 14-team league's 12 conference tournament berths, will finish their regular slate the following Saturday at Tulane.

The conference tournament will be conducted Mar. 9-12 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.




Records: ECU 9-17, 4-10 C-USA; USM 10-16, 1-13.
Halftime: Tied 34-34.

Name           FG      FT   Pts
Ambres        3-6     0-0     6
Carruth       4-8     0-0     9
Ford         8-16     2-2    22
Stiggers      2-6     1-2     5
Singleton    7-14     1-1    16
Forte         3-7     1-1     8
Haywood       0-5     0-0     0
Mitchell      0-1     0-0     0
Totals      27-63     5-6    66

Name           FG      FT   Pts
Rouse       10-13     1-4    21
Badiane       3-6    7-10    13
McNeil        3-6     1-2     9
Hammonds     6-10     0-0    15
Cook         6-18     5-7    19
Kilgore       0-2     0-0     0
King          0-3     0-0     0
Hart          0-0     0-0     0
Castro        0-1     0-0     0
Totals      28-59   14-23    77

3-Point goals: Southern Miss 7-22 (Ford 4-9, Forte 1-2, Carruth 1-3, Singleton 1-3, Stiggers 0-2, Haywood 0-3); East Carolina 7-17 (Hammonds Jr. 3-7, McNeil 2-3, Cook 2-4, King 0-3).

Fouled out: None.

Rebounds: Southern Miss 31 (Ford 6); East Carolina 43 (Badiane, Rouse 13).

Assists: Southern Miss 12 (Ford, Stiggers 5); East Carolina 19 (McNeil 7).

Total fouls: Southern Miss 19, East Carolina 12.

Technical fouls: None.

Attendance: 4,826.


02/23/07 10:56 AM

©2004 The Associated Press. All rights rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. contributed to this report.


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