Back to the future: ECU to hire former coach Joe Dooley

Dooley, who spent the past five seasons at Florida Gulf Coast, compiled a 57-52 record in four years with the Pirates from 1995-99

Joe Dooley has compiled 114-58 record with two NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons at Florida Gulf Coast ( photo)

Two weeks ago, East Carolina turned to former athletic director Dave Hart to help stabilize a program knocked back by the unexpected departure of current leader Jeff Compher.

Now it appears that the Pirates are about to turn back the clock again by hiring Joe Dooley as their new men’s basketball coach.

Dooley, who has spent the past five seasons at Florida Gulf Coast, coached at ECU from 1995-99 — a four-year tenure in which he compiled a 57-52 record. His .523 winning percentage is still the best in school history among coaches in the Division I era.

His hiring ends an extended search that began last Nov. 29 when former coach Jeff Lebo resigned just six games into the 2017-18 season.

According to Greenville radio station 94.3 The Game, Dooley and ECU have verbally agreed to contract terms. The school’s Board of Trustees has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to approve the deal. Dooley is likely to be formally introduced at a press conference Thursday.

After being fired from ECU in 1999 in what was considered a questionable move at the time, the 52-year-old Dooley went on to gain a reputation as one of the nation’s best recruiters as an assistant to Bill Self at Kansas. He spent 10 years with the Jayhawks, including their national championship season of 2008, before leading FGCU to five straight 21-plus seasons and two NCAA tournament appearances.

Dooley was a finalist for the UNC Wilmington job that eventually went to C.B. McGrath last year and has been at or near the top of ECU’s list of candidates almost from the moment the job came open.

Still, because of the upheaval caused by Compher’s resignation and interest in NC Central’s LaVelle Moton, ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg and other higher-profile candidates, it took nearly three weeks after FGCU’s opening round elimination from the NIT for the Pirates to decide to bring Dooley back.