Pack­ers’ Greene: Hous­ton is the­man

The Herald Sun - - Sports - BY TOM SHANAHAN Cor­re­spon­dent

Green Bay Pack­ers rookie Raven Greene of­fers a sug­ges­tion for East Car­olina foot­ball fans who might be dis­grun­tled: If they fol­low his ad­vice, they’ll be con­fi­dent new head coach Mike Hous­ton can re­vive the sag­ging pro­gram.

“They should watch a video of one of his pre-game speeches,” said Greene, who played safety for Hous­ton in 2016 and 2017 at James Madi­son Univer­sity. “They’ll be ex­cited. He’s a fiery guy, a great guy.”

Those Hous­ton videos can be eas­ily found in posts at ncaa.com and youtube.com.

Hous­ton, 47, was named ECU’s 22nd head coach Tues­day. He has compiled an 80-25 ca­reer record at three schools: JMU (37-6), The Citadel (14-11) and Lenoir-Ry­hne Univer­sity (29-8).

In 2016, he ar­rived at JMU, a Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion mem­ber, and led the Dukes to a na­tional ti­tle his first sea­son. There was a na­tional run­ner-up fin­ish in 2017 and a third post­sea­son trip until a sec­ond-round exit in 2018.

“When he came, he set a good foun­da­tion and earned our trust,” Greene said. “The way he car­ries him­self, we knew he was a man of his word. He has a good sys­tem. We had a lot of suc­cess in his ten­ure.”

JMU’s sec­ond-round loss on Dec. 1 opened the door to a rapid se­ries of events re­sult­ing with Hous­ton land­ing in Greenville by Dec. 4. He has a fiveyear con­tract with a base deal of $500,000 and other money slated to pay him from $1.3 mil­lion in 2019 to $1.67 mil­lion

in 2023.

The task he faces starts with the Pi­rates com­ing off a third straight 3-9 sea­son. Scot­tie Mont­gomery was fired with one game re­main­ing in his third sea­son with a 3-26 over­all record.

Re­viv­ing ECU is dif­fer­ent for Hous­ton than in­her­it­ing a win­ning team at JMU, but Greene pointed out Hous­ton also turned around los­ing pro­grams at The Citadel and Le­niorRhyne.

“Ob­vi­ously he has ex­pe­ri­ence with that, be­ing at dif­fer­ent places,” Greene said. “I’m cer­tain he’ll have suc­cess at East Car­olina. I wish him the best.”

Mont­gomery’s awk­ward dis­missal on Thurs­day, two days be­fore the Pi­rates lost 58-3 at N.C. State, an­gered his play­ers. ECU Chan­cel­lor Ce­cil Sta­ton of­fered a time­line that helped ex­plain how a chaotic and puz­zling Thurs­day-through Satur­day turned to rapid-yet-orderly an­nounce­ments on Mon­day that Jon Gil­bert of South­ern Mis­sis­sippi was hired as the new ath­letic direc­tor and Hous­ton was in­tro­duced on Tues­day.

Sta­ton said he and Dave Hart, a for­mer ECU ath­letic direc­tor serv­ing as an ad­vi­sor to Sta­ton, had pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied both Gil­bert and Hous­ton as a top tar­gets. With the de­ci­sion to fire Mont­gomery reached, Mont­gomery was al­lowed to in­form his team Thurs­day rather than the play­ers hear­ing the news through leaks. That was the case in 2015 when play­ers learned through so­cial me­dia Ruf­fin McNeill was fired.

“We could have waited until Satur­day, but in fair­ness to Scot­tie we knew the de­ci­sion,” Sta­ton said. “We have great ad­mi­ra­tion for Scot­tie. He brought discipline and he was a great re­cruiter, but it just didn’t work in terms of wins. That’s the busi­ness these guys are in.

“We wanted to get into the search mode quickly in a volatile mar­ket. Other things were hap­pen­ing be­hind the scenes.”

Word had leaked that Char­lotte, a Con­fer­ence USA mem­ber af­ter mov­ing up to the Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion, had con­tacted Hous­ton. Once Gil­bert and Sta­ton signed a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing on Dec. 1, Sta­ton, Hart and Gil­bert de­cided Hous­ton needed to be reached quickly as their top tar­get.

“As soon as I was con­tacted by East Car­olina Univer­sity, there was no doubt what my de­sire was and that was to be the head foot­ball coach here,” Hous­ton said. “This is a job that I iden­ti­fied, in my past, as be­ing some­where that I would pur­sue try­ing to have this op­por­tu­nity.”

Hous­ton men­tioned his ties to the state as the rea­son he un­der­stands ECU’s proud foot­ball his­tory. He grad­u­ated from Franklin High and played at Mars Hill Univer­sity. He coached high school foot­ball in North Car­olina be­fore he was a head coach at NCAA Di­vi­sion II Lenoir-Rhyne in Hick­ory.

“I’m ex­cited about our alumni,” Hous­ton said. “I’m ex­cited about our fan base. I want to es­tab­lish a strong bond be­tween those groups and our foot­ball pro­gram. We are Eastern North Car­olina’s foot­ball pro­gram. In time, we will be North Car­olina’s foot­ball pro­gram. We’re ex­cited to be here, and we’re ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity of what we can build.”

ETHAN HY­MAN ehy­[email protected]­sob­server.com

Mike Hous­ton is in­tro­duced as East Car­olina’s foot­ball coach on Tues­day at ECU’s Mur­phy Cen­ter in Greenville.

MORRY GASH AP

Green Bay’s Raven Greene, shown gain­ing a first down on a fake punt against Mi­ami on Nov. 11, said East Car­olina fans should ap­plaud the hir­ing of Mike Hous­ton.

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