Former Hampton coach comes home

By Bonitta Best
Updated: June 11, 2009

RALEIGH — In his fifth year at Hampton University, Walter Mebane led the Lady Pirates to the MEAC tournament final. Hampton lost to N.C. A&T and coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs, Mebane’s former boss.

For his accomplishment, he was abruptly released. Now Mebane, a Durham native, is back home after being hired as an assistant coach at N.C. State under new coach Kellie Harper.

Mebane recently talk to The Tribune about his latest career move.

Tribune: Were you surprised by your dismissal?

Mebane: Very. We were coming off one of our better seasons in the conference and also we got to the championship game with three freshmen, a junior and a sophomore. We had made some steady progression the year before and now had a turnaround this year, so I thought we had the program moving in a positive direction. I felt we could get back to the championship again next year Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

But I try not to look back, and I firmly believe that God closes one door and opens up another, and I just pray that He doesn’t keep me in the hallway.

TT: A colleague said he thought you never looked comfortable as a head coach. Is that true?

WM: That’s probably not true. All of the time I’ve been coaching, becoming a head coach was my goal. I am a player’s coach, therefore when you become a head coach you become like the principal. Players don’t easily come to you with information or guidance or for instruction as the head coach. Just like with anything, it took me a couple of years to get used to it, but once I became comfortable, the last three years I could do it with my eyes closed.

TT: Rumor has it you had several job offers?

WM: That’s not a rumor. There were phone calls, and I talked to some other coaches. I was kind of weighing out my options with those other situations when the State opportunity came up. I certainly started pursuing that more than I did any of the other options.

TT: How do you know coach Harper?

WB: We’d known each other sparingly over the last 18 years, and we both came up through the coaching ranks. We both became head coaches at our respective institutions at the same time and so we had a relationship prior to. But after that, we’d run into each other at the Final Four and we would just talk. When she got the job she called me and asked me if I was interested. I’m certainly glad that she saw enough in me and trusted me enough to become a part of her staff.

TT: What’s the difference between working for a mid-major Division I like Hampton and a major D-1 university?

WB: They just do things different. For instance, I had to go through all-day orientation. Their attitude and the way they go about things is just different. They let you know what is expected of you and of course I welcome the challenge.

TT: This is a homecoming for you, isn’t it?

WB: Absolutely. I haven’t been back to N.C. in 25 years so I’m kind of coming full circle. Another advantage is I’m a lot closer to my daughter who lives in Charlotte. She’s 14 and getting ready to go to high school, so being near to her is going to make that transition a lot better. I feel like God has me here for a reason; I’m not sure what it is but I’m ready to take on whatever challenges I may face. The only reason I’m here is because of Him.