Purple and Gold: OBX Pirate Nation welcomes players

Published 9:48 am Monday, December 24, 2018

When East Carolina University basketball coach Joe Dooley was looking for a place to take his new team for rest, relaxation and some bonding time, he found it on the Outer Banks. The Pirate ballers enjoyed some of the best things our area has to offer too – comfortable oceanfront vacation homes, simple southern cuisine, a sandy Jockey’s Ridge hike and an inspiring visit to the aquarium.

The squad also conducted a number of productive, high-intensity practices inside the First Flight High School gym. On that Saturday afternoon, the guys first stretched out and watched some film before they ran shooting drills with coach Dooley active in the paint.

Finally, they did some all-out, half-court scrimmaging with lightning fast ball movement and some solid takes to the hoop. Guys were hitting the floor hard as everyone was playing to win.

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Dooley’s an intense coach, so expect to see him mold this team into a successful unit sooner than later. He’s looking to develop a positive team culture so these young men can flourish.

Before practice began, he took time out to say hello to Pirate Club members Dan and Pat Hardy of Joe Lamb Jr. Realty, who set up and supplied linens and such to the three homes required to house the players and staff. Most of the players also thanked them with handshakes and smiles. Dooley seemed pleased.

“It’s been good, we’ve been able to do a lot of basketball,” he said. “It’s a good experience for our guys to get out of town and also be around some Pirates fans.”

So what did they do on a rainy fall Saturday at the beach? They played ball, of course.

“We practiced this morning, took them to eat and put their feet up a little bit,” coach Dooley said. “Now, we’re back at it again.”

The Pirates were set to play at UNC – Charlotte on Tuesday (Dec. 18) and coach Dooley had some ideas on how to grab a road win.

“We really need to shoot the ball a little bit better,” he said. “We’ve struggled offensively . . . I think some of it is youth, some of it is our timing hasn’t been great and some of it has been mismatched line-ups.”

Coach Dooley also noted a few of the guys were “nicked up” but were recovering nicely. The team trainer was with them tapping ankles and such. There was roughly one support staff for every player, so there was around 30 Pirates clad in purple and gold who made the trip.

The coach added that this weekend’s practices were important to get set before heading to Charlotte to face the 49ers, whose record is two wins, five losses so far this season. Dooley has a connection with First Flight; basketball coach Chad Williams was an ECU basketball team manager for Dooley back in the 1990s when Dooley did his first stint as the Pirates head coach from 1995 to ‘99.

Williams was out of town visiting family, so he was not on hand Saturday but he did mention he planted the seed for the “bonding” weekend with coach Dooley back in October when he was here for a coaching clinic.

“I used to work for coach Dooley,” Williams said Sunday. “You know we had the Virginia Tech girls come in last year, so I mentioned a bonding trip and he called back quickly on that Monday.”

Just like the Dooley and the Pirates, coach Williams has high hopes for his Nighthawks squad this year and he’s front loaded their schedule with a mess of tough teams so they can get up to full speed before the conference match ups begin after the holiday break.

“I think we’ll be pretty good,” he said. “We’ve got a chance this year and it’s the hardest schedule we’ve ever had by far.”

An additional Pirate who assisted with the team visit was another alumnus Mike Kelly, as the guys ate dinner that Friday night at his restaurant Pamlico Jack’s in Nags Head.

They also enjoyed fellowship during a private banquet-style dinner at the Nags Head Golf Links and The Player’s Grill, which was given by Pirates Club member Howard Swain. Additional Pirates alumni and fans in attendance included Johnnie Robbins, Dick Denton, Al Vaughan and Robb Ross.

ECU graduate Michele Bunce of Roanoke Island saw the team trudging up Jockey’s Ridge Sunday when she was out with her family. “They were really friendly and said ‘hi’ and everything!”