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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.


February 20, 2019

BUIES CREEK — Many of the Major League Baseball scouts who arrived to Jim Perry Stadium early and packed the seats behind home plate to key on starting pitching were not around to see a wild ninth inning Wednesday night.

They missed No. 11 East Carolina hit two clutch home runs in the…


February 20, 2019

The bottom fell out for the East Carolina women’s basketball team on Wednesday night in a 63-50 loss to South Florida.

The game was not the blowout at seemed, except for a dreadful stretch in the game’s critical minutes in the fourth quarter. After the Pirates (13-13, 4-8 American…


February 20, 2019

East Carolina’s home-heavy end to the women’s basketball regular season comes into shape tonight when the Pirates, who are 3-2 in their last five games, host South Florida in Minges Coliseum.

ECU (13-12, 4-8 American) split two road games in Texas last week, most recently falling 63-52…


February 18, 2019

East Carolina bas­ket­ball’s Jay­den Gard­ner col­lected his fifth Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence fresh­man of the week honor Mon­day af­ter post­ing his ninth dou­ble-dou­ble of the sea­son Sun­day against Tulsa with…


February 18, 2019

East Carolina baseball used eight different relief pitchers during its opening-weekend sweep of Radford, ranging from three freshmen making their debuts to seniors Sam Lanier and Evan Voliva closing out the Highlanders, 4-3, on Sunday at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Fifth-year coach Cliff Godwin said he…


February 17, 2019

Facing cold temperatures and an early deficit at Clark-LeClair Stadium, there were times Sunday when things could have gotten away from East Carolina’s baseball team.

The Pirates battled, however, and rallied during the middle and late innings to beat Radford 4-3 and complete an opening…


February 17, 2019

East Carolina softball’s four-game undefeated run through the Pirate Clash ended Sunday with the Pirates off to their best start to a season since beginning 8-0 in 2006.

After two walk-off wins Friday, Erin Poepping’s 10-strikeout performance from the circle Saturday night guided a…


February 17, 2019

The East Carolina basketball team in the puzzle-piece printed uniforms on Sunday afternoon showed again it is still missing some pieces.

The Pirates hit just one field goal in the opening eight minutes against Tulsa and trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half before storming back and…


February 17, 2019

East Carolina basketball coaches have been hot on the recruiting trail, including for Boston 7-footer Charles Coleman who also is a target by Wake Forest, Duke and DePaul, as the Pirates have faced difficulties on the court for another season.

A 79-69 loss to Memphis on Wednesday night, a game in…


February 16, 2019

East Carolina was busy on indoor and outdoor tennis courts this weekend, highlighted by the ECU women winning both of their matches in Greenville for a four-match win streak.

The Pirates (4-2) took a 5-2 victory over James Madison at the River Birch Tennis Center, then swept Campbell at the ECU…

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