From the Fayetteville paper:
Herrion says ECU still adjusting to C-USA
By Sammy Batten
Ask Bill Herrion if the adjustment period for East Carolina basketball is over after two full seasons competing in Conference USA and he'll shake his head with an emphatic, "No.''
Staff photo by Cindy Burnham
East Carolina basketball coach Bill Herrion, right, talks with Dan Kinlaw, left, and Jimmy Townsend at Highland Country Club.
Herrion said Monday during a visit to Fayetteville that the Pirates have made significant progress since leaving the Colonial Athletic Association for the C-USA after the 2000-2001 season. But the fourth-year head coach added there's plenty of work ahead before ECU is ready to make its mark in a league where national powers such as Cincinnati, Louisville and Marquette reside.
"I don't think we've got the adjustment done yet at all,'' Herrion said. "I think what has happened is this: You're talking about a program that when we left the CAA - which I think is arguably one of the top mid-major college basketball conferences in the country - we were not an overly successful program. It's not like we were Richmond or UNC-Wilmington or George Mason, teams that year in and year out were at the top of the CAA and competing to go to the NCAA tournament. Like Richmond going to the Atlantic 10. I think their transition has probably been a little easier because they've been successful in the past.
"We weren't an overly successful program in the CAA for years. I think what happened was our first year in Conference USA we won five basketball games, probably five more than people thought we were going to win. I think we snuck up on some people. I think we proved we had a great homecourt environment.
"I think this second year, though, we didn't sneak up on anybody. The league is just getting tougher with (Rick) Pitino at Louisville and (John) Calipari at Memphis, and Marquette this year getting to the Final Four.
"I'll say it here tonight, we've got programs in Conference USA that are trying to win national championships,'' he said. "We're not to that point yet. I think what we have to do first is try to get to the middle of the pack. Can we be competitive? I think we're headed in the right direction.''
Herrion was one of three East Carolina head coaches who spoke to about 100 supporters during a dinner at the Highland Country Club on Monday. Football coach John Thompson and baseball coach Randy Mazey were also on hand as the Cumberland/Hoke County Chapter of the ECU Pirate Club held its spring gathering.
Losing one senior
The Pirates went 12-18 overall in basketball and had a 5-11 league record in their first season of C-USA play. They slipped to 12-15 and 3-13 this season after opening with seven straight victories.
Only one senior, guard Travis Holcomb-Faye, graduates from ECU's roster. But despite returning a veteran team for 2003-2004, Herrion believes the Pirates still need to upgrade their talent.
"We've just got to get some more players, we've got to get better players,'' Herrion said. "If we're going to make strides in this league and get better, we need guys the ACC is getting. We're not naive enough to think we're going to get a kid over (North) Carolina or Duke right now. But you know what? We've got to get a kid that (N.C.) State wants, that Wake wants, that Clemson wants. That's the level we're at right now.
"But I think the fact we're in a great conference gets your foot in the door easier.''
Staff writer Sammy Batten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3534.