GREENVILLE, NC (WWAY) — Former UNCW assistant coach and former Wilmington Sharks head coach Cliff Godwin has been named the head baseball coach of the East Carolina Pirates. We’ll have a detailed report on Cliff Godwin on tonight’s sports segment at 11pm.
GREENVILLE, NC (ECU) — East Carolina University introduced its 16th Head Baseball Coach in program history, welcoming former player Cliff Godwin back to his alma mater at a press conference Thursday morning. Below are his statements and select responses to questions from the media.
“It’s been a whirlwind – surreal for me – but it’s good to be home. Over the past 12 years, I’ve coached all over the country and I’ve coached at a lot of successful programs, but I would not be where I am standing today if it wasn’t for a decision I made back in the spring of 1996. I had an opportunity to play several different sports at different colleges, and Coach Gary Overton took a chance on me to play baseball here. I really wasn’t good enough to have a scholarship offered to me, but Coach (James) Rabbit Fulghum kind of forced Coach O to get it done. It was the single-best decision I’ve ever made in my life.
When I came to East Carolina, I was able to play with a group of players that were very special, and the experiences I had were all because of that decision and playing for Coach Keith LeClair. When this job opportunity arose itself, obviously I was very interested, and a lot of people text and called saying, ‘Cliff, you know you’re going to get the job,’ and they thought it was just because I wanted to come home and coach at my alma mater, which was a piece to the puzzle, but it wasn’t the entire puzzle.
When I sat down with Jeff (Compher) and his staff in Omaha, I told them that the only way I would take this position is if they were willing to compete at the national level. From the first second I sat down with those guys, I knew that they wanted to compete at the national level. Greenville, N.C., is a college baseball town. We know what it can be from the years of 1999 to 2001 when we were hosting regionals, hosting Super Regionals and knocking on the door to Omaha. That’s why I accepted the position here. I’m very proud and blessed to be the head coach at East Carolina.
I need to thank my family – my dad, Luis Godwin, and my mom, my grandmother and my teammates that are here: John Williamson, Kevin O’Sullivan, Corey Scott, Coach Whit and the Wards. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for those guys.
When I met the administration in Omaha, I knew from day one they were committed to getting East Carolina back into the national spotlight. Chancellor Steven Ballard, Jeff Compher, Nick Floyd, J.J. McLamb, J Batt (and) the Board of Trustees – have committed to myself and the entire staff that is going to be associated with East Carolina Baseball at the highest level. Jeff’s vision to get to Omaha paralleled mine. I know what it takes to get there. I’ve been there twice as an assistant coach and I know how close we were as players. I know my teammates and Coach LeClair are looking forward to us competing at the door, knocking it down and getting to Omaha.
I spent three years with my former boss Mike Bianco, the head coach at Ole Miss. He taught me the Skip Bertman system , where he won all of those national championships and Coach Bianco showed me that and he’s great family guy; great person.
One of my best friends in the entire business is Terry Rooney. I worked for him for six years between Notre Dame, LSU and the University of Central Florida. He is a relentless recruiter. When we stepped foot at the University of Central Florida, I didn’t know what I was getting into, but he taught me. He’s been a great friend and a great resource. Now, we’re going to be competitors and he’s very competitive so it’s going to be interesting in the American (Athletic) Conference.
Paul Mainieri, the head coach at LSU, taught me how to deal with the athletic administration, the public, the media and other places as well. He’s also been a great resource for me, too.
When I got to Vanderbilt as the director of baseball operations, I had no idea what went on behind the scenes as a Division I college baseball coach at the highest level. From booster clubs to practice organization to recruiting, the whole nine yards. Tim Corbin is probably the most complete coach I’ve ever worked for and I’m very grateful for that.
Mark Scalf, the head coach at UNC Wilmington, gave me my first-ever opportunity as a baseball coach. He took a chance on me.
Finally, Ole Miss, their fans and Ross Bjork (who is) the A.D. there, has been very, very grateful to me for my time there. Mike Bianco, Carl Lafferty and the players know the ride we had this year to go to Omaha after Ole Miss not being there for 42 years. You guys don’t understand the pressure of that as a player, and those guys were so tough to go to ULL, where my team lost in 2000 as the No. 1 seed.
Keith LeClair was the guy that got this vision going back in the summer of 1997. I’ve been blessed to wear the number 23 at a couple of different places and Omaha. When I got here, I’m going to be honest – I didn’t know what Omaha or the College World Series was, and he spoke it every day and lived it every day. In 1998, when we were hovering right around .500, he never stopped talking about Omaha. His passion for East Carolina Baseball was unparalleled. I wasn’t the best player, but he treated me the same as he did Lee Delfino or whoever else was an All-American on our team, and that’s what made him great. He instilled a blue-collar work ethic and pride in us, and we thought we had outworked everybody in the country. I’ll be forever grateful to him and I know he’s looking down on us right now.
The vision of our program is going to be similar to what Coach LeClair had when he was here. We’re going to recruit the best student-athletes in the country. They’re going to come here and work hard. It’s going to be a program designed to implement discipline, excellence, a blue-collar work ethic and we’re going to do things the right way on and off the field.
Something I came up with by myself is something I want our guys to think about as a lifestyle. It’s an acronym for Pirates. “P” stands for purpose. We want to have a plan and a reason why. When you start coaching kids at this age, it’s different than when I was coming through and you could just tell someone to do something and they did it. But now, you have to explain it to them: Why is it going to make them better? Why is it going to make them a better person? And we’re going to talk about that every single day.
“I’ is for integrity. I want guys to do the right thing on and off the field, even when no one is watching. We’re going to develop principles and plans to make sure that happens. They’re not going to be perfect kids. We want people to do things the right way, all the time.
“R” is responsible. You have the power to choose your response. Each day we’ll be faced with situations and decisions, but you can always choose your response. The things you’re faced with won’t always be positive, but you can always have a positive response. You’re going to get knocked down and you have to get back up.
“A” is attitude. I want guys to be energy-givers. I don’t want people to be energy vampires. I want people to bring energy to our program that are associated with it. Our staff will and our players will as well.
“T” is toughness: The ability to embrace adversity on and off the field. The game of baseball is a game of failure. It’s tough. Life is tough and we’re going to teach these guys to embrace it and move forward. They will do it in a positive manner.
“E” is excellence – being at your best every day, not only on the baseball field, but in the classroom. If you’re a 3.5 student, be a 3.5 student. If you’re a 2.75 student, be a 2.75 student.Greenville is a baseball community. We have to get our guys out there.
“S” is selfless – “we” over “me.” It takes 35 guys in Division I baseball to compete for a national championship. Obviously, everyone has a different role. I want our guys to execute those roles, not accept them. If you’re a pinch hitter, do it to the best of your ability, but don’t accept it because we need you to want to be a starter. Do it in a positive way. We’re going to play for the East Carolina Pirates on the front of our uniforms and not the name on the back of the uniform.
From a recruiting standpoint, I’ve had the opportunity to coach all over the country and make connections everywhere. Recruiting is the lifeline to any program, but especially East Carolina Baseball. It’s going to start in Greenville and Pitt County. It’s going to stay in the eastern part of the state and it’s going to expand through North Carolina and up-and-down the eastern seaboard. Nobody will outwork us on the recruiting trail. I can promise you they won’t do that, and we’ll going to do it the right way. We’re going to bring in kids who want to win at the highest level and are very talented, but have the same values I talked about with the lifestyle of the Pirates. There will be no room for anyone who doesn’t want to be a good student. It’s a complete package here.
I had a chance to meet with the current team. About eight guys were on campus, and it’s great to start reaching out to those guys. My first two priorities are to reach out to all the guys on the roster and embrace them. They’re part of the East Carolina family. I didn’t recruit them, but they’re going to be part of their program.
Lastly, it’s a surreal moment for me to be the leader of East Carolina Baseball. I know I have great support here. I’m going to hire a great staff and we’re going to compete at the highest level. To my teammates that I played with and all of the East Carolina alums that have played here, we’re going to put a product on the field and off the field that they’re very proud of. I can promise you that there will be exciting times at Clark LeClair Stadium, “The Jungle” is going to be packed again, we’re going to compete to host regionals and Super Regionals and we’re going to go to Omaha.”
On his first head-coaching job after being an assistant at high-level programs:
“I’ve had the chance to work with some of the best head coaches in the country, if not the best, and they gave me a lot of autonomy on my job. I’ve been an associate head coach, I’ve been a head coach of the offense and I know pitching because I was a catcher. I feel like I’m very prepared due to the resources I’ve had throughout my career. Being so close to getting to Omaha as a player, and then getting there as a coach, I think that has probably prepared me more than anything.”
On the importance of recruiting and keeping signees committed:
“Reaching out to all of the guys who are on our team and the committed guys, talking to them and telling them about the direction the program is going in is very vital because it is a crucial time in recruiting.”
On the message of his hiring that can be sent to kids in Snow Hill, North Carolina:
“That even a country boy from Snow Hill can make it and be the head coach at East Carolina. A lot of people joke and say I’ve come a long way since Snow Hill. It’s a great community to grow up in. Greene Central was awesome. I had a lot of experiences there that put me in the position I am today.”
On recruiting against some of the premiere ACC baseball programs in the state of North Carolina:
“Not to sound too arrogant, but we’re going to compete nationally. We’re going to compete against everybody and back when I played here, we beat everybody, so that’s what we plan on doing.”
WILMINGTON, NC (SHARKS) -– The last time out the Wilson Tobs pitching staff allowed 14 runs. Tonight, in their first official game since the blowout loss against Morehead City, Wilson’s pitching staff tossed their first shutout of the season, defeating the Wilmington Sharks 3-0 behind a terrific starting performance from Christian Slazinik.
Slazinik and starter for the Sharks, Joe O’Donnell, traded scoreless frames through the first two innings and it would be O’Donnell who blinked first in the top of the third. Doug Teegarden singled to begin the inning and after a Seth LaRue strikeout, Taylor Nichols singled to put guys on first and second with one out. Ben Schmucker, who leads the Coastal Plain League in RBIs, extended his lead with a ground ball through the right side, putting the Tobs up 1-0 for his 21st RBI of the summer.
The score would stay the same until the top of the sixth inning when Jake Armstrong put the Tobs up by two with one swing of the bat. Armstrong received a hanging breaking ball from Joe O’Donnell and crushed it well over the left field wall, putting the Tobs up 2-0.
Armstrong made it 3-0 the next inning, punishing Sharks reliever Hunter Smith for walking a couple of batters. With runners on first and second and one out, Armstrong again took a hanging breaking ball and singled down the left field line for his second RBI of the night.
Chris Williams came on the bottom of the ninth inning after Slazinik allowed a leadoff double to Mike Montville. Williams hit Cam McRae on the elbow, and Sam Foy singled to right field, but Ben Schmucker unleashed a perfect throw, gunning Montville out at the plate. Williams then got a pop out to left and struck out the final batter of the game looking. Wilmington was only able to get six hits on the night with Sam Foy and Chris Hanson adding two apiece.
The Tobs improve to 13-12 on the season while the Sharks drop to 13-13. Joe O’Donnell gets saddled with the loss and has a record of 2-2. The Sharks head to Fayetteville Friday night to tango with the SwampDogs.