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Tracking the College Basketball Stars of the Future

Hoops Recruiting Report
Tuesday, March 8, 2004

By Thad Mumau

Gee-whiz factor should drive hoops hire


What “secret formula” is needed to cook up a winning basketball program at East Carolina?

Notice I use the word “program” and not simply “team,” because the former is the goal of most fans and, certainly, any athletic director. Of course, fans — particularly ECU faithful talking about roundball — will settle for a winning team now and then.

There are so many factors in regard to the Pirates and what their ultimate hoops success might be. Mentioning the Final Four could get your sanity questioned. An appearance in a national top 25 poll? More of a possibility, to be sure.

East Carolina has many built-in reasons/excuses for not producing basketball teams that can consistently play with the big boys. Most of them begin with three letters: A-C-C.

Dial up just about any top-200 underclassman in the country, ask him which colleges he is considering, and the ACC and/or one or more of its schools will get mentioned by at least two-thirds of them. For many, the ACC isn’t a likely landing strip, but it is a dream because it’s generally considered the best hoops league in the nation, and everybody wants to play for and against the best.

So, here’s East Carolina in the same state with three of the schools currently ranked in the top 10 in the country, plus another one with a very strong basketball tradition. How many of the prize prospects in North Carolina do you think would pick the Pirates if Duke, Carolina, State or Wake came calling?

Conference USA was an attraction … but the watered-down version is not. Louisville, Memphis, DePaul and Marquette have national name recognition. Those were also the schools in the conference most likely to sign top-flight high school kids. But at least East Carolina could scoop up some pretty good leftovers who liked the idea of playing against those teams.

Not any more. Conference USA is a blast from the past.

So, what can East Carolina do to build a basketball program? More specifically, what can Terry Holland do?

To me, the answer is obvious, but not easy to make a reality. He must hire a “name” coach. Someone everyone knows, someone with connections — specifically, with NBA folks.

Kids believe in coaches who have succeeded in the past. They all want to play in the NBA, so if a guy can sit in a living room and tell prospects and parents that he knows this pro coach and that GM, he can sign himself some talented players.

Somebody who can show the kids a roadmap that leads to the NBA can get autographs on letters of intent.

See, it’s not just about coaching. In fact, that isn’t even the No. 1 ingredient in the recipe for the Bucs.

That’s what I think, anyway.

You think Bill Herrion can’t draw smart x’s and o’s? You think he doesn’t have good plans for a game’s closing seconds? He can coach. There is no doubt about that.

And he can recruit, to a point. To take it farther, if he was coaching an ACC team, he would get a lot of the same players who politely say no to being a Pirate. So, it isn’t a question of his ability to recruit as much as it is his recruiting limitations in Greenville.

I have talked to numerous high school coaches in recent years, while covering the basketball recruiting beat for Bonesville. Most of them rave about Herrion and Greg Herenda. The prep coaches really like those two fellows, talking about how straight-up they are and how hard they work. They say their kids like those guys, too.

But when I check to see where the kids went if they turned down ECU, it would always be a school with a glossier basketball bio. Or a place that had a coach with the same.

Luring a well known coach might seem like a quick fix because then you wonder what happens when he leaves. But laying a foundation would be a huge step. Grabbing a national ranking or getting an invitation to the March party would be nice things for coaches to mention during in-home visits.

So, we’re back to Terry and the Pirates. And The Question.

I don’t think he can bring in a guy who has won 25 games at No Name U or an assistant who has helped Coach Big Time reel in whoppers. I think we need a name here.

Where can Holland find one?

What about Matt Doherty? Has enough time elapsed since he was declared a raging bull in Chapel Hill?

How about another UNC-CH alum, Phil Ford? He can coach and he can recruit. Sure, he has had a problem, but he’s a wonderful human being who has worked hard to overcome it. He’s sitting beside Larry Brown in Detroit right now, but he would love to be a head coach.

I don’t know if he would want a challenge like East Carolina for his first stop, however.

It is going to be interesting to see what happens here. Just who will Terry Holland find to make the Pirates brand of basketball a program?

I’ve got it … what about Terry Holland?

Do you think he would take the job?

Send an e-mail message to Thad Mumau.

Click here to dig into Thad Mumau's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 02:42:28 PM

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