Mack McCarthy, who led the East Carolina men's basketball program to overall and Conference USA victory total milestones while serving in an acting capacity during the 2007-08 season, has agreed to a five-year contract to continue guiding the Pirates as head coach according to an announcement from ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland Thursday.
Specific details of the contract, which also includes an incentive and bonus structure, cannot be released until final approval is granted by the East Carolina University Board of Trustees.
McCarthy, who was introduced by Holland as the program's acting head coach Aug. 9, 2007 after serving as the team's associate head coach for two previous years, directed East Carolina to an 11-19 overall record last season, which marked the highest number of wins for a Pirate squad since the 2003-04 campaign. Of the 11 victories, five came during C-USA play - matching ECU's top league win total since becoming a basketball member in the Dallas-based conference beginning in 2001-02.
In addition, the Pirates also notched victories against a pair of Top 50 teams, including the program's first-ever triumph over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, and produced a three-game win streak in league play for the first time in four years.
A three-time coach-of-the-year selection who has earned a total of 13 conference regular season or tournament titles in 14 winning seasons and produced eight 20-victory campaigns during his head coaching tenure, McCarthy has compiled a 320-196 (.620) record in 17 seasons directing programs at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Virginia Commonwealth and East Carolina.
"I am extremely excited and pleased to be the head basketball coach of the East Carolina University Pirates," McCarthy said. "We are proud of what we did last season as a starting point, and my staff and I cannot wait to get on with the business of making Pirate Basketball better. We very much appreciate the opportunity given and confidence shown by the administration, and we will work as hard as possible to justify their actions."
After seven seasons as an assistant coach to Sonny Smith at Auburn, McCarthy got his first head coaching job at UT-Chattanooga in 1985 and proceeded to lead the Mocs on one of the most prosperous runs of any college program in the nation during the next 12 years. UTC never experienced a losing season with McCarthy at the helm and won more than 20 games seven times. His record of 243-122 at UTC equaled the most wins ever for a Southern Conference coach at the time.
McCarthy immediately molded the Mocs into a consistent winner, as his first three teams won 20 games or more and reached the post-season. In his first season, he guided UTC to the SoCon regular season championship and an NIT birth. Chattanooga went back to the NIT the following year before making the first of five NCAA Tournament appearances in 1988.
The Mocs won at a tremendous pace during his 12-year stay. After 10 seasons, McCarthy had won 204 games, which ranked as the eighth-highest victory total for any coach after the first decade of his coaching career. UTC was the dominant force in the SoCon with McCarthy in charge, compiling a regular season mark of 156-54, a .743 winning percentage, from 1986-97 and proved especially difficult to defeat at home.
Under his tutelage, the Mocs turned UTC Arena into one of the toughest places in the country for opponents to play. "The Roundhouse" was rated the "Third Toughest Place to Play in the NCAA" by Sports Illustrated in its 1995-96 College Basketball Preview issue. UTC was 146-30 (.829) inside UTC Arena, including an 83-10 (.892) record against conference opponents.
In all, seven of McCarthy's teams made trips to the postseason. Over an amazing stretch from 1988 to 1995, the Mocs won eight regular season conference titles and five tournament championships, including three straight from 1993-95 when they earned both the regular season and tournament crowns.
In his final season at Chattanooga, McCarthy's 1996-97 UTC team put together the two greatest victories in school history. After earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Southern Conference tournament championship, the No. 14-seed Mocs turned heads by knocking off third-seeded Georgia 73-70 in the opening round of the Southeast Regional in Charlotte. Two days later, UTC became the first Southern Conference team to advance to the Sweet 16 by upsetting Illinois, and just fell short of the regional final after a close loss to Providence. The tournament run also aided McCarthy's star player, Johnny Taylor, who was chosen in the first round of the 1997 NBA Draft.
He was named Southern Conference Coach-of-the-Year three times and earned NABC Regional Coach-of-the-Year honors after guiding the Mocs to a 23-7 record in 1993-94.
Prior to the start of the 1997-98 season, McCarthy joined his longtime friend Smith at VCU as associate head coach. He then took over for the retired Smith, a man who he had worked with as an assistant for 12 seasons at three different schools.
In his four years at VCU, the Rams increased their winning percentage each season, culminating with a 21-11 mark in 2001-02. He departed the Richmond campus with a four-year record of 66-55.
He wasted little time in turning the program around, leading his 1998-99 squad to twice as many victories as the previous season in the Colonial Athletic Association. The following year he produced the school's first .500 season since 1996-97.
McCarthy, who grew up in Woodstock, Va., saw his coaching career take root at Virginia Tech, where he graduated in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in education. During his two seasons as an assistant coach (along with Smith) under Don DeVoe, the Hokies earned a top 20 national ranking and NCAA berth in 1974-75. McCarthy then joined Smith when the latter became head coach at East Tennessee State and again followed Smith to Auburn, where the two worked together and took the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in 1984 and 1985.
Through his recruiting efforts, McCarthy helped shape and change the identity of Auburn basketball. He was able to convince future NBA All-Star and Basketball Hall of Fame member Charles Barkley to sign with the Tigers, thus forever changing the course of the Auburn basketball fortunes.
Barkley wasn't the only future pro to play under McCarthy. Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens played basketball at UTC, while McCarthy also helped tutor Chris Morris and Chuck Person at Auburn.
McCarthy followed his stint at VCU by serving as a television analyst for ESPN and hosting a daily radio show in Chattanooga called "On the Road With Mack McCarthy" for two years before accepting a position on the women's basketball coaching staff at Georgia Tech in 2004.
STATEMENT FROM EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS TERRY HOLLAND
"Coach McCarthy and I have concluded the necessary first step of what will be a continuing dialogue on the future of our men's basketball program.
When I announced Coach McCarthy's appointment to the interim coaching position in August, the natural first question was `what does Coach McCarthy have to accomplish to remain in the position.' My answer was that I was confident that Coach McCarthy's team would be competitive enough on a consistent basis that the question would answer itself to everyone's satisfaction.
The forward progress on and off the court during the past year is impressive, unprecedented and measurable: (1) A team GPA of 2.78; (2) A group of young men who represented ECU in a first class manner wherever they went; (3) Two wins in one week against teams in the Top 50 at the time, including the first win in ECU's basketball history over an ACC opponent; (4) Five C-USA wins, including a three-game winning streak near the end of the regular season; (5) A total of 11 wins overall - the most wins at ECU in the last four seasons and just three wins short of the most wins (14) by any ECU team during the previous decade.
However, in order to meet the qualification "to everyone's satisfaction" we can not gloss over the disappointing road losses by large margins to conference opponents. We can offer the excuses of being a young team and the fact that we are not a physically imposing team (yet) but the bottom line is that such performances are not acceptable and we have to be accountable and committed to addressing these losses forthrightly.
The two areas of greatest concern for the 2007-08 Pirates were rebounding and defending the "paint". We simply have to find ways to win the battle on the boards and to defend the lane, even against bigger and stronger opponents. After all, Pirates have to get used to battling against the odds.
There is no doubt in my mind that the current staff, under Coach McCarthy's leadership, will continue to move this basketball program forward. Therefore, we have developed a five-year contract with a bonus structure that rewards our coach for continuing excellence in already strong areas (academics and public relations) while also creating a strong incentive to improve the "bottom line" - as defined by C-USA wins and our expectations for continued improvement in rebounding.
Although details of the contract cannot be announced until the contract is approved by the East Carolina University Board of Trustees, we wanted to make this announcement now so as to give the staff the best opportunity to recruit prior to the upcoming signing period.
Recruiting has obviously been hampered by the "interim" tag but the coaches have been able to keep us `in the game' with some outstanding recruits who can play a major role in the continuing improvement of Pirate Basketball if they choose ECU."