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Coaching carousel hits Pirates, AD search

James Madison NC State Football

James Madison head coach Mike Houston talks on his radio during the first half an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Just a few hours after East Carolina officially parted ways with head football coach Scottie Montgomery, there were already coaching candidates being linked to the Pirates’ new vacancy on social media and in other media reports.

James Madison coach Mike Houston was at the forefront, including a report Thursday afternoon by the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va., that the Charlotte 49ers’ public pursuit of Houston impacted the timing of ECU’s dismissal of Montgomery. ECU (3-8) finishes its season Saturday at N.C. State, where the Pirates will be led by defensive coordinator David Blackwell.

Houston told reporters on Wednesday that Charlotte had offered him its head coaching position and he was interested, but he had not yet accepted the offer.

On Friday, Charlotte released a statement that athletics director Mike Hill had withdrew the offer because, “Houston informed us that he had interest in exploring other head coaching opportunities, while remaining under consideration here.”

Houston, 47, is a North Carolina native of Franklin.

“It’s just the reality of college football right now with the (recruiting) national signing day moved up to December, and institutions have obviously sped up their process to going after different candidates for different reasons,” Houston told reporters Wednesday. “I was contacted on Sunday by the Charlotte 49ers and athletic director Mike Hill and we had a good conversation and I listened to him and talked to him again on Tuesday. I told him I was interested in the job.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with JMU. I have been blessed to be at James Madison University and have the opportunity to be the head coach here. I am still the head coach here.”

JMU is set to play in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs on Saturday. The team’s coaching staff includes former ECU veteran staffers Donnie Kirkpatrick and Steve Shankweiler.

The Pirates’ 2017 season began with a 34-14 loss to Houston and the Dukes in Greenville.

East Carolina’s football coaching search is still tied to its vacant athletics director position and an AD search led by Dave Hart that for weeks has centered around Southern Miss AD Jon Gilbert. UNC Wilmington’s Jimmy Bass was in talks with Hart this week, but Bass tweeted Friday night that he is no longer a candidate.

“The search for ECU’s new athletics director remains ongoing in earnest, and that individual will finalize the hire for Montgomery’s replacement,” the university’s release said Thursday.

Sources and other media reports also have suggested that Hart hiring Gilbert as the Pirates’ next AD could lead to Butch Jones quickly being a lead candidate as ECU’s next football coach. Jones was head coach at Tennessee when Gilbert and Hart were also at UT. Jones, also a former winning coach at Cincinnati, is currently an offensive analyst for Alabama.

Dwayne Ledford, who played defensive line at ECU from 1995-97 and is currently the associate head coach and run game coordinator/offensive line coach for N.C. State, could emerge as a natural candidate for the Pirates. Shane Beamer, Oklahoma’s assistant head coach for offense and tight ends coach, was involved in the Pirates’ last coaching search.

The coaching carousel also affects Blackwell and the Pirate assistants who will coach the team Saturday amid their uncertain futures.

“I don’t want to get into many details, but I have had several phone calls already and that is the nature of the business,” Blackwell said Thursday afternoon. “This isn’t the time for that right now. I will worry about that Sunday or Monday. And even as we move toward signing day, I’ll do the best job I can as long as they want me to be here.”

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

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Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

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

ECU

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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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February 16, 2019

After serving as East Carolina baseball’s first starting pitcher of the season and hitting for himself as the designated hitter, Alec Burleson was thinking he would remain at DH or maybe play first base for Game 2 of Friday’s doubleheader versus Radford.

Instead, some conversations led…

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February 15, 2019

A total of 21 runs by East Carolina powered the Pirates to a college baseball opening day sweep of Radford at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Friday.

Spencer Brickhouse’s go-ahead, two-run home run keyed a 6-2 win, then ECU used a 16-hit barrage for a 15-9 victory in Game 2 of the doubleheader…

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February 15, 2019

CATCHER

Jake Washer, junior: Washer is back as East Carolina’s starting catcher after receiving Major League Baseball draft interest following his breakout sophomore season. In addition to showing power with six home runs and 40 RBIs a year ago, Washer posted a smooth .287 batting average.…

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February 15, 2019

Equipped with All-American Bryant Packard ready to serve again as East Carolina’s leadoff man in the batting order and a stable of proven pitchers who battled during the preseason for lead rotation spots, ECU is ready to face an opponent and begin a new season.

Radford’s visit to Clark-…

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February 15, 2019

WEEKEND ROTATION

FRIDAY

Alec Burleson, sophomore: Burleson will be a frequent player at designated hitter and first base in the lineup, but his main focus in the season opener versus Radford will be on the pitcher’s mound. The left-hander, who was the American Athletic Conference rookie…

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