DeChellis, Childress make their marks

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- It's too bad Home Improvement is not on the air anymore because Dimeco Childress and Ed DeChellis would make good special guests.
   They know how to get hardware.
   Childress and DeChellis were both honored recently by the Southern Conference. Childress was named Player-of-the-Year, while DeChellis was named Southern Conference Coach-of-the-Year for the second-straight season.
   Childress averaged 18.9 points per-game in Southern Conference contests, including several over 30-point games, and even a 42 point outing against Western Carolina in ETSU's home finale.
   "It's a great honor," Childress said. "It just shows that hard work pays off. To any kid out there, I'm living proof that hard work pays off. I've worked hard to get where I'm at today to make myself into a player. It just shows with the Player-of-the-Year award.
   Childress thought that being on a team that tied for the Southern Conference's North Division Championship helped him win the award.
   "I think that's what helped me end up getting it," Childress said. "I just thank my teammates for that. I couldn't do it without them. I say we're all Players-of-the-Year."
   Even though Childress is thrilled to win this award, it won't mean as much without winning the Southern Conference Tournament this weekend in North Charleston, S.C.
   "That's the ultimate goal," Childress said. "That's been the ultimate goal since day one. Individual goals are great, but our ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament."
   DeChellis arguably did his best coaching job in his six years at East Tennessee State during the 2001-2002 campaign.
   Already having to replace three seniors, the Bucs got more bad news during the season. Two starters, Cory Seels and Cliff Decoster, withdrew from school, and guard Sam Oatman spent the season out with an injury.
   By the end of the season, DeChellis was starting two sophomores and a freshman. But through all that, the Bucs still have an 18-9 overall record.
   "It's a credit to our team and to our staff," DeChellis said. "Meaning everybody, my assistant coaches, our managers, our trainers, and all the people associated with our program, and most importantly the players. If you've got good players, and kids who believe in what you're doing and good attitudes, then you've got a pretty good base to build on. We've been very, very fortunate the last couple of years."
   DeChellis thought that the fact ETSU got off to such a slow start, then heated up towards the end of the season helped to sway the voters.
   "I think the fact we were 3-5 at one time, then won eight in-a-row helped," DeChellis said. "I think coaches just look at where team started. We lost six players from last year's team. They were probably thinking that we weren't really supposed to be very good, and then we ended up being pretty good because these kids really believed and they worked extremely hard."
   The awards are great to DeChellis, but he feels the same way Childress does about it.
   "All these individual honors are nice," DeChellis said. "But the one honor that we want is next Sunday afternoon. Meco's Player-of-the-Year and that's a great honor for him, but we would trade all that stuff in if we can cut down the nets next Sunday afternoon. That's what we're really focused on."