GREENVILLE, N.C. — New East Carolina head football coach Scottie Montgomery took to the podium Monday morning to address the crowd of media, trustees and athletic personnel.
Making his first public appearance as the Pirates new leader, Montgomery won the crowd over with well-timed jokes and showed poise as he flexed his knowledge of the program.
Not only that, Montgomery didn’t look like a last-resort type of candidate, something that Pirate fans were perhaps concerned about as the coaching search took plenty of odd twists and turns.
“Pirate Nation, you are the real deal,” Montgomery said in his opening statement. “I couldn’t be more happy to be in Greenville, North Carolina this morning.
Montgomery’s arrival to ECU comes just a day after the program officially announced his hire. Athletic Director Jeff Compher opened up the press conference by introducing his newest addition, and wasted no time pumping up the football program, signifying the importance of a good hire.
“Football is the engine that pulls our athletic train,” Compher said. “For most collegiate athletic programs, that statement is true. But for ECU that seems like an understatement because at ECU football truly matters.”
It took Compher nine days to officially name Montgomery the team’s new head coach. Rumors swirled around other candidates like Brady Hoke, Gene Chizik and Shane Beamer but the athletic director had Montgomery lined up as his final interview of the process and made it clear that he was the only coach to be offered the position.
“The process was real,” Montgomery said. “The process was clearly communicated to me. I knew some of the people who I would be sitting in front of, and I knew that they were some of the best people in the entire world.”
Montgomery, who was a former receivers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers before joining Duke as its offensive coordinator two years ago, thanked a long line of coaches that helped him along the way. He mentioned what he took from each, specifically naming David Cutcliffe, Mike Tomline and Bruce Arians.
All of that culminated in Montgomery’s vision for his new program. If nothing else, the brand new head coach made his expectations especially clear.
“There’s two languages that I understand,” he said. “It’s character and it’s production. From a character standpoint you know what I mean. From a production standpoint it’s first their academic production. The last part of that production; produce on the field. Come to work everyday, put on your hard hat. Don’t complain, don’t make excuses; find solutions.”
When the beloved Ruffin McNeill was fired, Compher cited the lack of conference championships as his main reason for letting the sixth-year coach go. Now, Compher has had over a week to hand pick McNeill’s successor with the expectation remaining unchanged, even in his first year.
“We want to win and we want to win and we want to win championships,” Montgomery said. “But the first task is to win over the building. The current players are my top priority.”
A handful of players came to the press conference but most stood in the corner of the room, looking on at their new coach. Montgomery met with the team earlier Monday and started the process of the transition.
Taking over an FBS school is no small task and the 37-year old Montgomery understands that there may be some stigma about his age. However, in the talent-rich American Athletic Conference, young coaches have been a godsend for schools.
“My age is probably always being the guy that has to work a little bit harder,” Montgomery said. “I put myself in the right position at the right time and then succeeded when the opportunity came.”
For now, though, Montgomery will be splitting his time between his duties at ECU, which include hiring assistants, and Duke. The Blue Devils play Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York on December 26 and Montgomery will round out his duties as the offensive play caller before turning his attention full time to the Pirates.