Editor’s Note: “A Decade Back” means just that. We’re looking ten years into the past at major events in the basketball landscape to relive the history. We should learn from the course of time and not soon forget the moments that brought us here.
Ten years ago, North Carolina Central made a move that changed the course of its program.
In 2009, the Eagles hired LeVelle Moton as their 17th-ever head coach. He was elevated from assistant coach to replace Henry Dickinson as the program turned to its all-time leading scorer to pull it from the ashes following the recent move up to Division-I. Moton scored 1,714 points as a shooting guard from 1992-96 for NC Central and had been on the coaching staff since 2007.
In three years, Moton had NC Central above .500 for the first time since 2005. In 2014, his fifth season at the helm and the school’s fourth in the MEAC, the Eagles won the MEAC Tournament, earning their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid as a No. 14 seed.
After a couple years off, Moton had his Eagles dancing again in 2017 and rode that momentum forward. NC Central has played in each of the last three NCAA Tournaments and has established itself as the strongest force in the MEAC the last seven years.
Moton is recognized as one of the best coaches in Division-I and has had his name rumored for a handful of other jobs over the last few years, understandable given his track record. But what was the reaction like at the time of his hiring? Let’s look back at what people were saying 10 years ago about the Moton promotion:
NC CENTRAL HIRES LEVELLE MOTON AS HEAD COACH
“It was essential we hired the right person for the job. We needed someone with a lot of energy and a real vision of where this program is going to be. There’s no question we’ve had ups and downs in this transition, so we really needed someone with charisma and passion to generate support with our fan base. LeVelle has all of that. I know he’s the right person.” – NC Central athletic director Ingrid Wicker-McCree
“I had all of my coaches put together a strategic plan for me. LeVelle’s went back to the basics – going to class, representing the university well. That goes back to why we hired him. We wanted someone of character who would also recruit players with good character. We want to build a foundation for our program that lasts.” – Wicker-McCree
“This seems to be a popular choice for a university that has seen a rough transition from Division II to Division I basketball, going 8-53 in its two seasons in the NCAA top division.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Moton looked the part and said the things that make players, fans and school administrators smile. He was gracious and appreciative of the opportunity given to one of the greats in NCCU history.
This is a win-win situation for the university, Coach Moton, and the area. The former guard starred at Enloe High School – his number hangs in the same historic McLendon-McDougald Gymnasium that houses the Eagles’ program. He had a successful stint at Sanderson High School as head basketball coach, and has called NCCU home the last two seasons as an assistant.
Having personally played against Moton, I know the fire and pride that he brings to the court, and at the age of 34, he is still young enough to relate to today’s players. NCCU made the right choice for its coach and for the direction of its historic basketball program.” – Brad Simmons, WRALSportsFan.com
“Moton was chosen from more than 25 applicants and three finalists, one with college head-coaching experience. Before joining the Eagles’ staff, Moton was the head coach at Raleigh’s Sanderson High School for three seasons and posted a 59-25 record.” – Jimmy DuPree, The Herald-Sun
“We are pleased that we were able to identify a new head coach from within the Eagle family.” – NC Central Chancellor Charlie Nelms
“Wicker-McCree said Moton’s lack of experience as a Division I coach was considered in the process but ultimately did not outweigh his strengths and ties to the school and community.
‘He understands very clearly the expectations of the university and our tradition of excellence,’ she said. ‘His career was magnificent, but he’s also done a very good job in a short period of time to prepare himself to put him in this position.’” – Edward G. Robinson, Raleigh News & Observer
“Freshman Jamar Briscoe, the team’s leading scorer this past season, has faith in the new coach, saying, ‘He’s a great motivator.’” – Robinson, Raleigh News & Observer
“He could have chosen a number of easier and probably more lucrative careers. Before coming to NCCU as an assistant, he ran his own basketball camp, during which he first made the acquaintance of (John) Wall, and also was a successful head coach at Sanderson High School in Raleigh.
And in recent years, he earned a solid reputation as a trainer among NBA players. His unorthodox but successful methods attracted the likes of Jerry Stackhouse, Marvin Williams and Raymond Felton to his gym.
Moton said he had no grand plans on becoming a college coach, he figured he’d be a high school teacher for life. But he also said he learned a long time ago not to question where his life led him.
‘I grew up in a housing project where, in 35 years, six people went to college,’ he said. ‘That means there were 2,100 or so left out. I could have been one of the six or one of the 2,100. I try not to ask why.’” – Dana O’Neil, ESPN.com