College Sports

Former Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, for a week, back in the game. Could it become more?

Former Charlotte 49ers coach Bobby Lutz spent his weekend coaching a boys travel basketball team at a Phenom Hoops showcase event in Spartanburg
Former Charlotte 49ers coach Bobby Lutz spent his weekend coaching a boys travel basketball team at a Phenom Hoops showcase event in Spartanburg lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Bobby Lutz was coaching again this weekend, bouncing around with the same boundless energy that he always had as head coach with the Charlotte 49ers or as an assistant at N.C. State.

Lutz won 398 games as a college head coach with the 49ers and at Pfeiffer University, a small private school in Misenheimer, northeast of Charlotte. Lutz — who was also an assistant in what is now the NBA’s G League — was probably the most experienced coach working at the Phenom Hoop Report’s Havoc Live high school basketball showcase last week.

The showcase, for summer travel teams, allowed high school players a chance to play in front of more than 100 college coaches at the Upward Stars Center in Spartanburg. It was the kind of event Lutz, 60, has attended many times as a college coach, hoping to find the next crop of players for his program.

This time, however, he was coaching Team Denver, a group of players from multiple high schools, mostly from the Denver, N.C., area that Lutz calls home.

Lutz’s cousin has a grandson playing for the team, and a former player of his from Pfeiffer also has a son on the team.

“These two double-teamed me and said, ‘These guys need to hear a new voice,’” Lutz said. “They said, ‘They’re tired of listening to us.’ They asked if I would (coach in) July.”

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The Charlotte 49ers last made the NCAA tournament in 2005. The trip was annual then. Under Bobby Lutz, seen above in 2010, they went in 1998, ’99, ’01, ’02, ’04 and ’05. JEFF SINER jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

So Lutz ran Team Denver through one practice before the Phenom tournament and then the players got a treat — to be able to be coached by a bona fide college coach during one of the most important periods of their high school careers.

Team Denver went 7-2 last week and won seven of its last eight games. After beating the Charlotte Royals in their final game Sunday, the players all gathered tight around Lutz in a huddle.

Everybody had a big grin on their face.

But no one had a bigger one than the coach himself.

He seemed home again.

“This is really a good bunch of young men,” Lutz said. “We had a good week. And the great thing about this is you always want to win, but this is more about letting the guys be seen (by college coaches). So you share the ball and let everybody show what they can do. My juices got flowing, but I have to keep in mind that’s the main goal.”

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Former N.C. State assistant coach Bobby Lutz, right, talks with former head coach Mark Gottfried during introductions before the Wolfpack’s game against Georgia Tech on January 11, 2012, at the RBC Center. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Lutz said for as much fun as returning to coaching was, he is not sure he’ll get to do it again in college. He said, despite a lot of public sentiment, that he was not considered as a serious candidate to return to the 49ers when the job came open this year.

“They weren’t interested in me,” he said.

Lutz did say he turned down a coaching opportunity and would be pretty careful about any future potential opportunities — if any did come.

“At this point in my life,” he said, “I don’t have to work. I would like to work but it’s going to be 100 percent on my terms — who I’m working for, as an assistant or a head coach. I’ve learned it’s all about who you’re working for. Having said that, it’s very likely I won’t coach again.

“I won’t have that many opportunities. I’m 60. It’s the way the game is now, with search firms, the way (colleges) hire (athletics directors) and the way ADs use search firms to hire coaches. They have a younger set and group and an old guy like me who isn’t into politics and never will be....I always said if I’m not good enough on my own, I’m not good enough, and so I know my chances are not very good (to coach again).

“And it’s OK. I’m content.”

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