East Tennessee State coach Murry Bartow was looking for a unique way to set the stage for a new basketball season.
What he came up with is billed as “Holding Court,” an intriguing evening with well-known basketball personalities and fans getting together at the Carnegie Hotel. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas will host the event on Oct. 8, and he’ll be joined by former ETSU coaches Les Robinson and Sonny Smith, and former Georgia Tech and College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins.
“I’m excited about it; I think it’s going to be great,” Bartow said Wednesday. “I talked to Jay a couple of months ago about it and thought if we could get him to emcee the thing, that would be a big boost. He’s really good and has a new book out and is such a presence on TV. He lives in Charlotte and agreed to come over and do it for us.
“Then you have Les Robinson and his history at ETSU, and Sonny Smith and his history here. Bobby Cremins is a good friend of ours and I wanted him to be part of it, too.”
The night will surely cover a lot of ground, from basketball philosophy and X-and-O stuff, to some great storytelling. When it comes to telling tales, there aren’t many better than Smith, Robinson and Cremins.
Bartow said others will likely be brought into the conversation via Skype.
The entourage will be much more familiar to ETSU fans than the team they’re about to start watching this fall.
Bartow also has a revamped coaching staff.
The Bucs have eight players on the roster that weren’t wearing the blue and gold during the team’s plunge to 10-22 last season. Bartow also has two new assistant coaches.
“Obviously last year was a challenging year,” he said, “and we wanted to do something to kick-start this season. We have a great history, a great tradition, with this program. The premise here was to do something special to help introduce a team with a lot of new faces.”
“Holding Court” is being presented by Johnson City Honda, with sponsorship from the Carnegie Hotel and One Stop Wines and Spirits. Cost is $100 per person and includes a cocktail buffet. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. in the Grand Soldiers Ballroom.
To reserve a seat or get more information, call 439-8398 or visit etsubucs.com.
The new basketball schedule has yet to be released but will include 17 home games. That’s reportedly the most in school history.
The non-conference lineup is a potpourri of mid-majors — Morehead State, Winthrop, Stephen F. Austin, Austin Peay, Valparaiso, Marshall, Samford. The Bucs have old ties with Morehead, Austin Peay and Marshall but have faced Samford only twice and have never played the other three.
“Whenever you can play home games, it’s big,” said Bartow. “I think our fans will enjoy it, and the head coach will enjoy it.”
At least three games may be played at Freedom Hall, as a test run of sorts for a possible move there next season.
The road will take the Bucs to non-conference dates at Georgia Tech, Charlotte, Western Kentucky and Tennessee Tech.
The schedule may be released in its entirety later this week.
David Geno, the Bucs’ star soccer forward, is making steady progress in his recovery from a broken foot.
The senior from Kingsport suffered the injury in early May while playing in Canada with the Seattle Sounders U23 team. He underwent surgery and slowly but surely has been working his way back into shape.
The Bucs opened camp a week ago and won their first exhibition, 1-0 over UNC Pembroke. They play host to King University in their second tuneup tonight at 7.
The season opener is Aug. 30 at South Carolina.
“We’re going to need contributions from a lot of players, especially early on without David,” said coach Scott Calabrese. “He has been out on the field, starting to build some fitness. He’s become much more comfortable kicking balls with that (left) foot, and all the feedback he’s giving us is that there’s very minimal discomfort.
“We’re taking things very slow with him. Without pushing it, I would think he’ll be firing on all cylinders by the time the conference season rolls around (in early October).”
Geno has been named to the watch list for the Hermann Trophy, which is the highest individual award in college soccer. He is one of 34 men on the list.
“It’s a big honor for him to receive that kind of attention,” said Calabrese. “It shows the kind of respect the college soccer community has for him.”
As a junior, Geno set school single-season records for goals (11), assists (8) and points (30) and was named Atlantic Sun Conference player of the year. He also holds the career records in all three categories.
Geno is the preseason player of the year again this fall, while teammate Blaike Woodruff is preseason defensive player of the year. Midfielder Itode Fubara is also a first-team all-conference pick.
The Bucs were picked second, behind three-time defending regular-season champion Florida Gulf Coast, in the coaches’ preseason poll.
The women’s soccer team is preparing for its season opener Friday night at Appalachian State.
The Lady Bucs won both of their exhibitions, defeating Radford 3-2 behind a pair of goals by freshman Molly Collinson, and then racing past Lees-McRae 3-0 on Tuesday night. Another freshman, Jenny Poiti, had a goal in that one.
“The attitude and effort of the girls has been excellent,” said third-year coach Adam Sayers on Wednesday. “As always, preseason results are secondary to performance, but I’ve been very happy with both.
“The performance of the freshmen, in particular, has really been encouraging.”
The coach expects Collinson, a midfielder from Cramlington, England, to have a substantial impact as the Lady Bucs try to fill the scoring void left by Ramey Kerns and her 21 goals last season.
“She’s an attacking midfield player,” said Sayers. “Technically, she’s very good, very skillful. She also works very hard.”
ETSU was picked third, behind Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville, in the preseason poll. They’ll face an Appalachian State team Friday night that was picked to finish sixth in the Southern Conference.
“They’re always a very hard-working team, very organized,” said Sayers. “It’s a unique location — artificial turf up in the mountains. We expect a tough game.”
The Lady Bucs will travel to Virginia Tech on Sunday before opening their home schedule Aug. 30 against VMI.