College Sports

Charlotte 49ers find next basketball coach on bench of No. 1 NCAA seed

University of Virginia associate head basketball coach Ron Sanchez followed head coach Tony Bennett from Washington State to Charlottesville. He is known as a top recruiter.
University of Virginia associate head basketball coach Ron Sanchez followed head coach Tony Bennett from Washington State to Charlottesville. He is known as a top recruiter. University of Virginia

Ron Sanchez, a key figure in Virginia’s rise as a college basketball power, has been named the Charlotte 49ers’ head coach.

Sanchez, 43, spent nine seasons at Virginia under coach Tony Bennett and was with Bennett for three seasons before that at Washington State. The Cavaliers were the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed this season before losing in the first round to 16th-seed Maryland-Baltimore County in Charlotte last Friday.

“Ron Sanchez embodies everything we could possibly want in a head basketball coach,” new 49ers athletics director Mike Hill said in a statement. “His reputation is impeccable as a teacher, leader, assessor and developer of talent, and recruiter. Most importantly, he is a man of high character and integrity. This is a great day for the Charlotte 49ers.”

Sanchez, who be introduced at a news conference next week, replaces Houston Fancher, who was the 49ers’ interim head coach after Mark Price was fired in November. Fancher and his staff were let go earlier this month when Hill took over at Charlotte.

The 49ers were 3-17 under Fancher and finished the season 6-23 (2-16 in Conference USA).

It will be the first head-coaching position for Sanchez, who was a volunteer assistant at Indiana before going to Washington State. He played at State University of Oneonta, where he was the State University of New York athletic player of the year in 1997.

Sanchez was hired at Washington State by Dick Bennett, and remained on the staff when Bennett’s son Tony took over. Sanchez accompanied Tony Bennett to Virginia in 2009 as an assistant and was promoted to associated to associate head coach in 2015.

The UMBC Retrievers pulled off the previously impossible Friday night, making NCAA tournament history in Charlotte by upsetting Virginia, 74-54, before an absolutely shocked crowd.

“I have waited a long time for the right fit and I truly believe in the leadership of (the 49ers’ athletics) department,” Sanchez said in a statement. “I cannot be more excited to get started. Obviously, I would not be here without the help of both Dick and Tony Bennett. I learned so much from them during my time at Washington State and Virginia. My wife and children are also very excited to be part of the 49ers family.”

Sanchez is a native of the Dominican Republic who has has also served as an assistant coach for the Dominican Republic national team.

“For the last 15 years of my coaching career, Ron Sanchez has been by my side,” Tony Bennett said. “He has been a huge part of all the successes on and off the court that I experienced and he is like a brother to me. I couldn’t be more pleased to see him named the head coach at Charlotte. The ultimate compliment I can pay Ron is to say that he is the kind of coach that I want my son to play for. His mind for the game and his recruiting prowess speaks for itself. What a great day to be a 49er.”

Sanchez is known as an excellent recruiter. He helped Bennett land Klay Thompson (now with the Golden State Warriors) at Washington State and Milwaukee Bucks forward Malcolm Brogdon at Virginia.

“He’s always a guy who has given me little pieces of advice – just like leaving little tokens of wisdom,” Brogdon told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. “He gives me things I can improve on going into the season or things I can improve on throughout the season that coach Bennett hasn’t told me that he’s seen that can really help me.”

Sanchez and his wife, Tara, have a son, Raelon, and a daughter, Rose Marie.

David Scott: @davidscott14