The East Carolina University women’s basketball team dealt with many coaching changes last season that led to some instability with the program.
ECU Athletic Director Jon Gilbert and the department hired Kim McNeill making her the tenth head coach in school history for the women’s basketball team.
McNeill is coming to Pirate nation off of a three year tenure at the University of Hartford. When McNeil arrived at Hartford during the 2015-2016 season, the team was a below .500 team and finished 11-19 that year. McNeill then took the team to three consecutive winning seasons.
In the 2016-2017 year, Hartford finished 17-14 overall, and 7-9 in the America East Conference. The next year, McNeill brought the Hawks to another level by finishing 19-13 overall with a 9-7 record in conference play during the 2017-2018 season. In her last year with Hartford, McNeill took the team to its best season record wise under her tenure when it finished 23-11 overall while posting a 14-2 record in conference play.
“For three years, they immediately bought in to the change and to the process,” McNeill said. “We wrote a new record book and took Hartford basketball to the top of the America East. But more importantly, we developed relationships for life. I want them to know that just because I’m not there every day, I will always be there for them.”
Before becoming the head coach at Hartford, McNeill spent five years at the University of Virginia serving as an assistant coach before becoming associate head coach in 2013. The team went to three WNIT tournaments including back-to-back appearances from 2015-2016.
McNeill served as an assistant coach at James Madison University from 2000-2001 and from 2002-2004. She served as an assistant coach at the University of Richmond for one year (2004-2005) and went to the University of California for two years (2005-2007).
“I have helped build programs on three things, family, academics and basketball,” McNeill said. “Understanding that every day won’t be peaches and cream, but there will be far more good days than bad. On those bad days, you will have your family here to support you.”
McNeill agreed to contract terms on Thursday and was introduced to ECU on Friday afternoon. When it came to accepting the position, McNeill had her list of things that she was looking for. McNeill found those things when she stepped on campus in Greenville.
“There were key things that I was looking for,” McNeill said. “First and foremost, the family atmosphere. I was looking for the passion, the drive to take this women’s basketball program to the next level. Gilbert was very aggressive, and very proactive and I liked that. From the first conversation I had with Jon, I knew that he was going to be behind me to do what we need to do to get this program to where it needs to be. I’ve been in college towns. I know how good it feels to have the community behind you and what you can do when you have that support. So, I was looking forward to being back to that.”
When it came to the recruitment process and finding the next head coach, Gilbert had a list of criteria that he was looking for when it came to finding the right person for the job. Gilbert in turn talked to people nationally both coaches and others within the women’s basketball community. McNeill’s name kept coming up more times than not, and Gilbert felt that he found someone that could help the Pirates become more than just an above .500 team.
“I wanted someone that understood our footprint and knew what it would take to be successful at this level,” Gilbert said. “I knew as I did research that was really positive when you hear other coaches talk about McNeill in that regard, I knew that it was the direction I needed to go in.”
The Pirates came off a season where they finished 16-15 overall and 6-10 in American Athletic Conference play. They lost in the quarterfinal match of the conference tournament to the No. 2 ranked University of Connecticut 65-92 on March 9. McNeill is ready to prep the team for next year looking to make ECU women’s basketball exciting to watch.
“My goal here will be to create a positive student-athlete experience that will be built around family,” McNeill said. “I’m going to challenge these young ladies every day to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be. They will represent themselves, their families and this university in a first-class manner, and will be very visible in the community. We will have an identity and understand who we are and how we will win games. We will be a blue-collar team that will not be outworked.”