Pirate Players Get First Glimpse at New Coach
by Dan Eberhard

First impressions mean everything and ECU forward Corey Rouse had a funny thought when he first saw his new coach. "He's a little short, but he's a great coach," said the 6-8 junior. The smile on Rouse's face Wednesday afternoon may have indicated that the Pirates are starting to move forward after a month filled with turmoil off the court and a disappointing finish to the season.

The waiting game is over not just for the fans, but the team as well. Anybody's guess was as good as the players' as to whom their next head coach would be. "They told us they were going to get the best person fit for us and the position we were in," said Rouse.

That person turned out to be Ricky Stokes. The former Virginia Tech head coach and former Virginia player made his East Carolina debut yesterday at a press conference announcing his hiring. The coach briefly met with three of his future players, one of which he already knew.

Stokes recruited Jeremy Ingram when he was an assistant at Wake Forest. Ingram transferred from Wake Forest in January to join the Pirate program. "I had a little background on him from when he recruited me at Wake Forest," said Ingram. "He's just a great coach. I'm glad he's a part of our program now and I just can't wait to get started."

The general feeling among the players in attendance Wednesday was relief. "It's been a roller-coaster ride," said ECU forward Taylor Gagnon. "You hear names thrown out in the community but you learn not to pay a whole lot of attention to the rumors. I'm just glad the hiring process is over."

The rest of the team likely won't meet the coach until next week when they return from spring break. The players not at the press conference got a call from their teammates telling them the news. "We told them we'd call them after the press conference and let them know who the coach was and what he was like," said Ingram.

The ECU players were remorseful about the firing of Bill Herrion and showed great loyalty to their former coach. But the squad is already developing a respect for their new coach, and looking forward to the future.

Dan Eberhard