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WOODWARD: Unique situation nets rare, optimistic result

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From left, adviser Dave Hart, athletics director Jon Gilbert and East Carolina University Chancellor Cecil Staton on Monday at the Murphy Center.


The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Dave Hart didn’t even know how to finish his sentence.

He has been in athletics administration since the early 1980s and seen just about everything, except for what happened with him and East Carolina finalizing an athletics director search and football coaching search at the same time.

“This was very unusual and just when you think you’ve seen it all ...”

Hart didn’t need to continue speaking, because the introductory news conference held for Jon Gilbert as the Pirates’ AD on Monday and then Mike Houston as new football coach the next day provided all the insight.

Gilbert was ECU’s No. 1 choice. Houston was ECU’s No. 1 choice. The Pirates got both.

Pulling this off is rare for any school. It is especially rare for the Pirates to get their top choice, because they are not in a Power Five conference and don't have an enormous budget to entice candidates.

A look back at the previous football coaching search, led by then-AD Jeff Compher, is telling.

Gene Chizik was the hot name in December of 2015. Droves of Pirate fans, staffers and donors wanted Chizik to leave his post as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator to be the Pirates’ 21st head coach.

Chizik was only mildly interested and ended up staying at UNC.

The trickle-down effect of missing out on Chizik led to the final three interviews going to Scottie Montgomery, Brady Hoke and Everett Withers.

Montgomery, then an offensive coordinator at Duke, thrived during his interview and was offered the job. He accepted, but the search process and hire was met by speculation on the local, regional and national levels.

East Carolina wasn’t a good fit for Montgomery, who was dismissed last Thursday with a 9-26 record. Hoke (Carolina Panthers) and Withers (Texas State) also were fired this year.

This time, the Pirates had a plan with their coaching search and they executed it with perfect precision.

Houston, who already has an 80-25 career record as a head coach, could have remained at Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse James Madison. He also could have given more thought to coaching the Charlotte 49ers, who also sought him, but in the end, he couldn't say no to Hart, Gilbert and the Pirates.

There were times last week when it was very clear that ECU really wanted to finalize a deal with Gilbert and make sure that he and Houston were both secure in their decisions and coming to Greenville together.

Speculation and anticipation were key words at that point. Validation came this week.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


May 21, 2019

The shocker on the first day of the American Athletic Conference baseball tournament was pulled off by the Shockers.

No. 8 seed Wichita State upset AAC regular season champion East Carolina, 6-2, on Tuesday afternoon in Clearwater, Fla., meaning the favored Pirates now need to win five games in…


May 20, 2019

As expected, East Carolina baseball’s record-breaking season was officially recognized by the American Athletic Conference on Monday.

Jake Agnos earned the AAC pitcher of the year award, just four days after he set a new league single-season record for strikeouts with 124 in 83.0 innings this…


May 20, 2019

East Carolina needs a new women’s golf coach, which is an unfamiliar position for the Pirates.

Kevin Williams, who started the ECU program in the fall of 2000, officially resigned Monday to join Kalen Anderson’s staff at South Carolina as an assistant coach.

During his two-tenure, 17-…


May 20, 2019

East Carolina announced program-record grade point averages in football and men’s basketball for the spring semester, one week after those teams were close to the cut line for NCAA administered penalties because of their multi-year academic progress rate scores released by the NCAA from 2017…


May 18, 2019

East Carolina lost its final regular season baseball game of this season, yet some fans stuck around at sunny and steamy Clark-LeClair Stadium after Memphis’ 10-9 victory on Saturday afternoon to see the Pirates collect their trophies and to show appreciation for what ECU accomplished…


May 17, 2019

East Carolina spent the last few months proving its worth as the best baseball team in the American Athletic Conference.

On Friday night, seventh-ranked ECU succeeded in its chance to put another historical stamp on its campaign.

The Pirates defeated Memphis, 5-3, at Clark-LeClair Stadium, giving…


May 16, 2019

In what will be celebrated this weekend as a historic regular season for East Carolina baseball, Jake Agnos was at the forefront and dominant Thursday at Clark-LeClair Stadium despite the game’s final score later ballooning to 19-10. 

ECU’s left-handed junior pitcher vaulted up ECU…


May 16, 2019

East Carolina is set to send eight athletes to the track and field NCAA East preliminary meet, scheduled for May 23-25 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Senior Grace Sullivan, the school-record holder in the steeplechase, enters the regional with a No. 12 ranking. She ran her season-best time of 10 minutes, 12.…


May 16, 2019

East Carolina used seven different outfielders in Tuesday’s come-from-behind win to beat Campbell 4-3 and begin a four-game final week of the regular season.

The starting lineup for the No. 7 Pirates began with Bryant Packard at designated hitter, Alec Burleson in left field, Bryson Worrell…


May 14, 2019

Campbell is rarely an easy team to put away in baseball.

The Camels proved it again Tuesday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium, where No. 7 East Carolina’s only lead in the game was the final score of 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Seldom-used senior Chandler Jenkins sparked the No.…

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