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Coaching search heating up

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Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley talks to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (Jerry Larson/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

As the college basketball season is nearing its end for East Carolina and other teams across the country, coaching searches are becoming more in focus.

The Pirates, who are the No. 11 seed for the American Athletic Conference tournament in Orlando, Fla., this week, are being led by interim coach Michael Perry, and he remains a permanent option, but work has progressed in identifying outside candidates.

According to sources, East Carolina athletics director Jeff Compher spent part of last week traveling and focusing on the coaching search as some leagues were conducting their conference tournaments. The Pirates are looking for a head man for the future after Jeff Lebo ended his tenure with ECU early in his eighth season on Nov. 29, 2017.

Here is a look at potential emerging candidates:

Joe Dooley: Dooley makes sense as a lead candidate given that he was head coach of the Pirates for four seasons during the 1990s, highlighted by a 17-10 record in 1996-97 and was linked to ECU’s vacancy in the past. He has been at Florida Gulf Coast for five seasons and the Eagles won the Atlantic Sun regular season this year, but they lost in the conference tournament championship game Sunday to Lipscomb and are not projected to make the NCAA tournament with their 23-11 record. FGCU went 26-8 last year to tie the school’s Division-I single-season wins record.

Mark Gottfried: A high-profile option comes in the form of Gottfried, who is a scout for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA and could be looking to get back into the college game as a head coach. He had success in the NCAA tournament during his tenures with Alabama and N.C. State, including making the Sweet 16 with NCSU in 2012 and ‘15, but he was let go by the Wolfpack in 2017 after consecutive losing seasons. Gottfried also has reportedly been associated with the FBI's investigation into college basketball corruption and recruiting.

Bobby Lutz: Like Gottfried, Lutz is a former college head coach in North Carolina who is currently working in the professional ranks as an assistant coach for the Windy City Bulls of the NBA Gatorade (developmental) League. According to one source, Lutz is interested in coaching the Pirates. He led the Charlotte 49ers from 1998 to 2010 and made the NCAA tournament in five of his first seven seasons. Charlotte slipped from there and the Hickory native was fired by the school in 2010 and later joined the N.C. State staff as as a lead assistant for Gottfried.

Michael Perry: Perry is a natural candidate as the current coach for the Pirates, and he has publicly made a pitch for his role to become permanent. That seems like a longshot now as East Carolina has scuffled in the American Athletic Conference once again -— finishing 11th out of 12 teams — and enters the league tournament on a five-game losing streak. Perry has been at East Carolina since 2007 and has prior head coaching experience from five seasons leading Georgia State.

Wes Miller: Similar to Lebo in that he once played guard for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Miller is gaining momentum in the coaching ranks and having a banner season in his seventh year as head man at UNC Greensboro. UNCG won at N.C. State this year, took the Southern Conference regular-season title and is NCAA tournament-bound after Monday night’s SoCon tournament championship victory. Miller is 35 years old and a leader among a group that also includes College of Charleston’s Earl Grant, if East Carolina tries to secure a young coach from a smaller conference.

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

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