GREENVILLE, N.C. — Former East Carolina basketball coach Charlie Harrison, who guided the Pirates for five seasons in the 1980s, passed away on Monday, April 13, at the age of 70.
Harrison served as the Pirates’ head coach from 1982-87 and guided ECU to 16 wins in his inaugural season of 1982-83. Four years later he guided the program to it’s first-ever win over a ranked opponent, defeating No. 18 Northeastern, led by the late Reggie Lewis, on Dec. 8, 1986.
A native of Scotland Neck, N.C., Harrison was named the Pirates’ head coach following a two-year stint as an assistant coach at Iowa State.
‘Harrison presented the most positive attributes for leading East Carolina into a new era in basketball,’ former ECU Director of Athletics Ken Karr said upon Harrison’s hiring.
Harrison graduated from Guilford College in 1971 and received a master’s degree in 1973 from Indiana, where he served as a graduate assistant to Bobby Knight. After completing his graduate degree, Harrison spent one season at Clemson followed by another Oklahoma before becoming an assistant coach with the Buffalo Braves of the National Basketball Association from 1975-77.
He later coached a semi-pro team in Switzerland before returning to Oklahoma as a volunteer assistant and helped the Sooners capture their first Big 8 title.
In the summer of 1979, Harrison was hired as an assistant coach at New Mexico and was named acting head coach prior to the start of the 1979-80 season following the dismissal of two coaches and numerous ineligible players.
Under Harrison’s tutelage, guard Kenny Page was named Western Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Year that season.
He is survived by his wife Guiselle and stepdaughter Mary Cruz.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Munden Funeral Home & Crematory in Morehead City.
REMEMBERING CHARLIE HARRISON
“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Harrison. I had become friends with him over the years and got to know him as a coach and a person. He was a generous man and embodied the spirit of ECU. We extend our condolences to his family.” – ECU Head Coach Joe Dooley
“It is sad to hear Coach Harrison passed away. He was a great man and great coach who loved his players. He loved being the head coach at East Carolina. He grew up in eastern North Carolina and lived his life here. Coach gave me the opportunity to come to ECU and play basketball. He used to say it was a great place to go to school and play basketball. He was right and it still is today. Many of the relationships I have to this day I owe to Coach Harrison. We always stayed in touched, even 30 years after he left ECU. He always treated me like I was part of his family.” – Jeff Kelly, ECU guard from 1985-89
“Coming to ECU was one of the best decisions that I have made in my life. Coach Harrison used to tell me, ‘Son if I ever stop yelling at you then I’ve stopped caring.’ He yelled at me so much, I thought he must really care about me. If coach saw you had an ability he did all he could to bring out your best. He was a fair coach and believed in getting degrees. Of the six guys in my freshman class, five earned their degrees and the other transferred. I loved the man and I loved playing for him. He helped mold me as a player, but more importantly as a man. He touched the lives of many people and I was fortunate to be one of them.” – Keith Sledge, ECU forward from 1983-87