Home » Columns »Your Phil of Hoops » Currently Reading:

History shows the challenge ahead of East Carolina

March 14, 2015 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments

HARTFORD, Conn. – The season is over, but a challenge is in front of East Carolina – or at least, the bigger part of the challenge. The first was changing conferences, which by itself is challenging enough. The second has to do with the school and which conference they are now in, and perhaps more with the former.

The Pirates gave regular season champion SMU all they could handle before losing in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Friday. Along the way, they set an American Athletic Conference Tournament record with 15 three-pointers.

East Carolina has long struggled to be relevant, and that has been true wherever they have been since they left the Southern Conference in 1977. They have won a conference tournament only twice. In the CAA, where they were a charter member, they finished higher than fifth just four times, never once finishing first or second. In Conference USA, they were never really a factor, in part from being there during the conference’s best days, but they were there for the days when it became a one-bid league with the NCAA Tournament. They only once entered that tournament seeded higher than the eighth seed.

In other words, this isn’t exactly a program that has a history of winning big.

Now they’re in a conference that should, as presently constructed, see multiple bids year-in, year-out. It’s one with the potential to be at least as good as Conference USA was in its early years. While that brings potential benefits for the program, they won’t come easily.

“This is a huge jump for East Carolina basketball,” said head coach Jeff Lebo. “We go from not being really relevant in any league that we’ve been in to jumping to a league that’s seven or six or whatever it is in the RPI and we got seven wins in the league. That may not sound like a lot to most, but if you look at the history of our basketball program, this is a lot for us.”

It means an uphill battle. A number of coaches have tried but failed to make them relevant, though Lebo appears to be making inroads. Under his watch, they have made it to the CIT three times in his five years, winning it in 2013. That year also stands as the only year in his tenure in which they haven’t won a conference tournament game, something they didn’t do much of while in the CAA or their early years in Conference USA. They went 6-12 in conference play with a relatively young team this season, and while The American is a strong conference, it wasn’t as strong this season as so much of the conference struggled to get good non-conference wins.

There’s plenty of competition trying to get out of the bottom of this year’s standings. USF has a new head coach with a great resume coming in. UCF has a lot of resources and thus a lot of potential. Houston has a proven winner in Kelvin Sampson, and he’s gotten a lot out of a limited roster this year. That’s only what’s at the bottom. If they want to eventually climb to the top of the standings, even more is required. Lebo knows this is another part of the challenge ahead.

“These programs aren’t going to come back to us,” Lebo said. “We’ve got to keep growing, we’ve got to keep investing, we’ve got to keep moving forward with our basketball program.”

The Pirates have some pieces to build around from this team. They will miss Antonio Robinson’s leadership, but every other significant piece comes back. They have one of the conference’s top freshmen in B.J. Tyson, who led them in scoring despite not starting, while Terry Whisnant and Caleb White will also return. Michel Nzege is an intriguing post player, and Marshall Guilmette will return alongside him as well.

The time is about as good as can be for the program in light of the success Lebo has had and with the young roster. They come in after a good run and with the guy who brought them the recent success. They didn’t replicate the recent success this year, but now they’re hopeful that it can be a building block to doing that later.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – November 9, 2017

November 10, 2017 by

The season is almost here, and we take a look at some of what to expect this coming season. We have preseason polls, conference changes, a look at some conferences and some matchups to start the season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – October 2, 2017

October 2, 2017 by

The FBI has zeroed in on college basketball in a big way, and what has happened may be the beginning of a massive hit to the sport. We discuss what we know thus far in our latest podcast.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – August 17, 2017

August 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we check in with some good news from a few teams overseas after a big scare, plus a big addition for a championship contender, a conference on the rise, and a great coach thinking about a return to the bench.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – June 21, 2017

June 21, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about the NBA Draft, of course, but spend much more time on the happenings at Ohio State and Louisville and the implications starting next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – May 17, 2017

May 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we start with the NBA Draft Lottery, then talk about a big pickup for Duke, important transfers, the coaching carousel winding down and much more.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.