GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Pregame coverage of the NCAA Basketball Championship is underway as bars and restaurants across the East prepare for a busy night of UNC vs. Kansas action.
Monday night’s game is the finale of the weekend for Uptown Greenville spots. Doggie Jams and the Final Four match-up kept bartenders and servers on their feet.
“It’s a great game. We’re supporting local restaurants,” said Terence Green, a self-proclaimed UNC super-fan. “Everybody, we have a good time. I’m a little nervous, but guess what, I wore my jersey. We’re gonna see how it works out.”
Yet, that won’t stop the televisions from staying on and the doors staying open late once the UNC Tar Heels and Kansas Jayhawks tip-off at 9:20 ET.
“We’re doing really well actually. This was a really good weekend for us,” said Blackened Kraken bartender Julianne Hughes. “All of the events brought a lot of people in, a lot of families and college students, so we are very stocked behind the bar.”
Calling in more staff to have on hand than they typically would on a Monday night, Hughes’ team is ready for a full house and a long line of bar tickets to fulfill.
“I’m a bartenders and like we get big crowds at my job, but this is a huge crowd right now,” said New Bern resident Sidney Legette ”We’ve got a lot of UNC fans.”
Hughes will be mixing up a special menu item just for tonight’s match, a Tar Heel shot.
“A Tar Heel shot is also known as a Blue Kamikaze. It’s equal parts vodka, blue curacao, and lime juice,” said Hughes, “and it’s a light blue color.”
For the 12th time, the Tar Heels will battle the Jayhawks for the championship title. UNC is hoping to continue its winning streak for a seventh overall win.
“Everything has been prepped either this morning or last night. So, we are ready for as many people as possible to come in,” added Hughes.
Good food, good drinks, and good times aren’t the only things expected out of the East for the game. Former ECU basketball coach Jeff Lebo and former Kinston High Viking Dontrez Stylez will represent the Tar Heels in the Big Easy.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Minges Coliseum will see a new head coach on its home court next season.
East Carolina University trustees confirmed the hiring of Michael Schwartz to lead the men’s basketball team Wednesday afternoon.
ECU hopes to have a slam dunk with its new addition, describing Schwartz as one of the “most versatile and well-rounded assistant coaches in college basketball.”
Schwartz has a hefty job ahead of him in stepping up to the role, tasked with pulling the Pirates out of their multi-season-long slump. However, until the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament has crowned a victor, Schwartz is sticking with his current team, the Tennessee Volunteers.
“The plan is for whenever the season culminates, that I will be able to be in Greenville full time,” Schwartz said Wednesday.
Coming off of his seventh season at Tennessee, Schwartz understands that he’ll need to have a different game plan out in the East.
“Are there going to be parts of the program, style of play, style of program, culture pieces that we bring? Absolutely. Is it going to look identical? I don’t think so,” Schwartz explained.
He doesn’t plan on making the Pirates a carbon copy of the Volunteers, but he does plan to bring some of the things he learned under veteran head coach Rick Barnes to the Pirates.
“Rick Barnes is one of the best basketball coaches of all time and I’ve had a chance from being a young player for him, to a young coach, to a veteran coach to learn from him,” Schwartz said.
Still, it takes more than play strategy to lead a team to postseason success.
“He has an infectious personality, and he brings a lot of enthusiasm and positive energy daily,” ECU Athletics Director Jon Gilbert said.
It’s the type of energy that Pirate Nation hopes can pull the team out of a .500 record outcome.
“I am just so fired up to get to Greenville, get two feet in, and begin to build the program there,” Schwartz said.
Pirates fans can watch Schwartz’s work play out on the court as the NCAA tournament kicks off.
Schwartz says North Carolina schools have an outstanding recruiting pool and he is eager to keep those all-star high school Carolinians in the state at ECU.
Coach Schwartz replaces former head coach Joe Dooley who was fired last Friday.