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Year in review: Pirate changes

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Jeff Lebo coaches for East Carolina against Central Connecticut on Nov. 17.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, December 30, 2017

It was a busy time for staff changes for East Carolina athletics during the final few months of 2017.

Rob Donnenwirth announced on Nov. 9 his resignation as ECU women’s soccer coach, ending his tenure of 19 seasons. He had nine 10-win campaigns and his replacement — Mississippi State top assistant and former Troy head coach Jason Hamilton — was announced Dec. 11.

A surprise resignation came Nov. 29 when Jeff Lebo told athletics director Jeff Compher and then the public that he was out as the Pirates’ basketball coach early in his eighth season in charge. The decision came when ECU had a 2-4 record and was set to host rival UNC Wilmington the next day.

“It’s been in the back of my head for a while, but nothing really concrete until fairly recently,” said Lebo, who led the Pirates to the collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament title in 2012-13, part of a 23-12 campaign. “It’s just time. It’s time for a leadership change, time for a new direction.”

Led by interim coach Michael Perry, East Carolina beat UNCW in overtime Nov. 30 in Minges Coliseum to begin a three-game win streak. Perry is still coaching the Pirates on an interim basis.

December is always a busy time for college football coaching movement, which for East Carolina this time mainly consisted of defensive changes in the assistant ranks.

Former Pirate player David Blackwell vowed on Dec. 9, when he was officially introduced as the team’s new defensive coordinator, that he is ready to fix a defense that was worst in the nation this year.

“As I researched this and looked at it, I look at it as a great opportunity,” said Blackwell, who got his coaching career started as a student assistant with the Pirates during the early-1990s. “The past is the past. I know the numbers and the stats.”

Changes by East Carolina, which has posted consecutive 3-9 seasons under head coach Scottie Montgomery but in mid-December also got a nice jolt with an early recruiting class that included star local quarterback Holton Ahlers, continued Dec. 15 when veteran Kirk Doll joined the Pirates as special teams coordinator. One week later, Rodrique Wright was named ECU’s new defensive line coach.

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

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