"What a special place." That was the response by ECU head basketball
coach Ricky Stokes following Wednesday night's 10 point loss at home to
the fifth ranked Memphis Tigers. It was the first time the first year
Pirate head coach actually got a feel of what Pirate basketball can
During his post game press conference after the UNC Wilmington game,
coach Stokes raved about the Pirate fan base and how impressed he was
that an announced 4,709 fans showed up to Minges Coliseum on New Year's
Eve. And that was without the pep band and Pure Gold Dancers. I
remember thinking to myself, just wait until you see the atmosphere
when Memphis comes to town.
Even I was a little surprised when a sellout crowd of 7,553 packed
Minges Coliseum on a weeknight. I can only imagine what was really
going through the minds of guys like Stokes, Jeremy Ingram (also his
first real taste of Minges Madness) and Courtney Captain to name a few.
With that said, no one on the ECU bench looked intimidated or in awe of
the opponent or their surroundings.
Big time Division One basketball in Greenville can happen! Anyone at
the game on Wednesday can attest to that. But here's the problem...
getting that same intense crowd to show up night after night. Yes, even
when we're playing the Limestones and Saint Paul's of the world.
Unfortunately Ricky Stokes will soon find himself in the catch 22 that
every other coach before him has stumbled into. The way to get sellout
crowds at Minges Coliseum night after night is by winning. The key to
winning (at least at home) is getting the crowd behind the players who
without a doubt feed off the intensity of the fans.
Minges Coliseum has the potential to be the next Cameron Indoor
Stadium. I already see many of you shaking your heads... but hear me
out. The two venues are very similar, relatively small compared to many
of the venues around the Division One landscape. Cameron Indoor Stadium
seats 9,314 while Minges Coliseum holds nearly 8,000. What makes both
places hostile environments is the fact that the fans seem to be right
on top of the opponent and at times the noise level is unbearable. The
biggest difference between the two venues has nothing to do with
winning, it has everything to do with consistency.
An announced crowd of 4,286 fans watched ECU play North Carolina
Central and to be honest there may have actually been only three
thousand fans in the stands. Duke played the same North Carolina
Central team in an exhibition game at Cameron Indoor Stadium this
season and the game drew a capacity crowd of 9,314. It may be comparing
apples to oranges but you get the idea.
The bottom line is that ECU basketball will rise to a level of national
prominence when the fans decide that every game is the biggest game of
the season. When that little purple and gold ticket becomes a hot