ECU crowd at basketball win over Memphis

Pirate Nation storms the court in the buzzer-beater win over Memphis on Jan. 15.

East Carolina University men’s basketball team found its new head coach in former Tennessee University assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Michael Schwartz.

Schwartz has been coaching since the 1999-2000 season, when he started his career at the University of Texas as a graduate assistant. From Texas, Schwartz went to Long Beach State University, preceding the 2001-2002 season to fill in the video assistant role. 

Following one season with Long Beach State, Schwartz returned to Texas where he served as the video coordinator for two seasons from 2002 to 2004. His first NCAA coaching job was as an assistant at the University of Texas at San Antonio during the 2004-2005 season.

After the single season at San Antonio, Schwartz moved to the University of Miami where from 2005 to 2007 he served as the coordinator of basketball operations before he was promoted to assistant coach following the 2006-2007 season.

Schwartz served as an assistant coach in Miami from 2007 to 2011 before a new opportunity landed him a role as assistant coach at Fresno State University from 2011 to 2014. He continued to work his way up the ladder with a promotion to assistant head coach at Fresno State in the 2014-2015 season.

He then moved to Tulsa University ahead of the 2015-2016 season where he stayed for one season before he followed Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes to that program in 2016. Schwartz was an assistant coach at Tennessee from 2016 to 2019 before he received a promotion to assistant head coach in 2019.

From there, Schwartz stayed with Tennessee as the assistant head coach for two seasons until he was hired by the Pirates to lead the program in his first head coaching role following former head coach Joe Dooley’s termination in March.

“I’ve wanted to be a head coach and I’ve felt ready for quite a while,” Schwartz said in an interview on March 24. “I’m not an assistant coach that’s been doing this for five, six, seven or even ten years. I just completed my 23rd season in Division I basketball.”

The pairing comes together following a season that finished 15-15, 6-11 in conference for the Pirates. In the past two seasons, Tennessee has finished 5th and 3rd in Kenpom’s defensive ranking. His leadership was one of the factors to acquiring the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and winning an SEC championship.

“Regardless of what your personnel is, you can be a great defensive player and you can be a great defensive team, because to me defense is heart,” Schwartz said. “It’s toughness. It’s as much mental as it is physical and so, to me, that’s where if you can build that foundation, then you can always hang your hat there.”

After his hiring was announced, Schwartz continued to coach for the Tennessee program through its NCAA tournament run. Following the Vols' loss to Michigan University in the round of 32, Schwartz traveled to Greenville, North Carolina, to join ECU’s program.

“When you really look at my time at Tennessee, being there over the last few years, I really knew that I was ready and it’s just waiting for the right opportunity,” Schwartz said. “You don’t know before, but when it happens you say ‘Oh, now I know,’ and no one else can really understand it until they experience it. When this opportunity happened, I knew.”

In his time at Tennessee, Schwartz earned his place on The Athletic’s Top 25 Up-and-Coming College Basketball Coaches and impacted the development of eight players who went on to play in the National Basketball Association. Schwartz was also responsible for recruiting Yves Pons, the first Tennessee player to win SEC Defensive Player of the Year. 

The next responsibility for Schwartz as he heads into the offseason will be the recruiting process and management of the transfer portal. 

“We’re here to build a program with our culture first. That is first and foremost,” Schwartz said. “We’re a part of something much bigger than ourselves and everything we do is going to be based on that. It is so much more than just a good basketball team.”

The 2021-2022 Division I men’s basketball season concludes following the end of the NCAA tournament on April 4.

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