College Basketball

New 49ers coach Mark Price makes NCAA tournament top goal

New Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball coach Mark Price has limited experience as a head coach but is confident he’s ready to lead the 49ers: “I’ve been around this for years. I’ll make some mistakes. I’ll learn; I’m a quick learner. I’ve been a coach on the floor my whole life. Point guard is the only position I played.”
New Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball coach Mark Price has limited experience as a head coach but is confident he’s ready to lead the 49ers: “I’ve been around this for years. I’ll make some mistakes. I’ll learn; I’m a quick learner. I’ve been a coach on the floor my whole life. Point guard is the only position I played.” rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Mark Price doesn’t want to wait long to turn around the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball program.

“Things can change quickly,” said Price, who was introduced as the 49ers’ 10th coach Thursday. “When you get the right people, you get the coaches and players on the same bus and rolling up the road to reach the goal we all want to get to.”

That goal, Price said, is the NCAA tournament, an event the 49ers haven’t played in since 2005.

“I can’t speak to what’s happened here over the last 10 years or so, I just know I’m looking forward and I think I know what it takes to be successful.”

Price signed a five-year contract. He replaces Alan Major, who left the program on March 15 after taking a second medical leave of absence in one year. The 49ers finished 14-18 in 2014-15, the third losing record in Major’s five years.

During Thursday’s news conference, UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil DuBois acknowledged Major.

“Alan is one of the most decent people I’ve met in this profession or any line of work,” DuBois. “Alan is a class act.”

Price, 51, comes to the 49ers from the NBA, where he’d been an assistant since 2007. Considered one of the league’s better teachers and shooting coaches, Price also had a stellar playing career, mostly with the Cleveland Cavaliers. A four-time All-Star, he’s second on the league’s career free-throw percentage list.

Price was one of two coaches the 49ers considered to replace Major. They also interviewed Chattanooga’s Will Wade last week, but he withdrew from consideration. So Price became the first and only coach to whom athletics director Judy Rose offered the job.

“(Price) didn’t have to sell much,” Rose said. “I remember him as a player, how intense he was and how well he knew the game. The other research I did on him just underscored that.”

Said Price: “I got real interested real soon. I saw the potential here and got extremely excited about the opportunity.”

Price has been aware of the 49ers’ program since he was 13 growing up in Oklahoma.

“I remember seeing some upstart team in Charlotte getting to the Final Four in 1977,” he said. “They had a guy named Cedric Maxwell. That got my attention, and I’ve always known about the university.”

Price said he met the 49ers’ team earlier Thursday. Several players attended Price’s news conference in the Hayward Practice Gym on the first floor of Halton Arena.

“I’m excited about the hire,” said guard Torin Dorn, last season’s Conference USA Freshman of the Year. “I feel like he’s a very good guy who will be a great coach. He told us we’re going to work hard and turn this thing around.

“I want to embody the same things he embodied as a player. He was where we want to go (the NBA). We have guys who dream of playing on the next level, and he can help us get there.”

Said sophomore guard Braxton Ogbueze: “I know he’s a great teacher, and I just want to be coached by him. He’s excited to be in this college environment. He didn’t go into a lot of detail, but he told us we have a lot of hard work to do.”

Rose said her goal for the program is to reach the postseason, which the 49ers did once (the NIT) under Major. She didn’t put a timetable on that goal.

“The postseason is the goal all along,” Rose said. “But I want to see real development of players, and they’ve got to feel that, too. I think we’ve had some of that, but we need a winning attitude, structure and discipline all to be there.”

Price’s experience as a head coach has been at two high schools in Atlanta and briefly in a pro league in Australia. He went on to be an assistant in the NBA in Memphis, Atlanta, Golden State and Orlando before coming to the Hornets in 2013.

“The biggest challenge is moving over one chair (on the bench),” said Price with a grin. “Calling the timeout. I’ve been around this for years. I’ll make some mistakes. I’ll learn; I’m a quick learner. I’ve been a coach on the floor my whole life. Point guard is the only position I played.”

With this being his first significant head-coaching job, Price seemed to acknowledge the 49ers might be taking a chance on him. But he said he was in the same position in 1982, when he accepted a scholarship offer to play for coach Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech.

“Georgia Tech was seriously one of the worst programs in the country,” Price said. “Within a few years we (tied) for the ACC regular-season championship and were a preseason No. 1 in the country. When coach Cremins brought me in, I told him it was a decision he wouldn’t regret.

“I don’t think he does, and I don’t think (Charlotte) will, either.”

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Mark Price file

Age: 51

Birthplace: Bartlesville, Okla.

College: Georgia Tech, 1986 (Industrial management)

Family: Wife, Laura; children, Brittany, Caroline, Hudson, Josh.

Coaching: Charlotte Hornets assistant (2013-15); Orlando Magic assistant (2012); Golden State Warriors assistant (2011); Atlanta Hawks assistant (2009-10); Memphis Grizzlies assistant (2008); South Dragons, Australia, head coach (2006); Whitfield Academy (Ga.) head coach (2000-2001); Georgia Tech assistant (1999-2000); Duluth (Ga.) High head coach (1998-99).

Playing career: Cleveland Cavaliers (1986-95); Washington Bullets (1995-96); Golden State Warriors (1996-97); Orlando Magic (1997-98).

Accomplishments: Four-time NBA All-Star; 1st team All-NBA (1993); 3rd-team All-NBA (1989, ’92, ’94); NBA 3-point champion 1993, ’94.

Bet you didn’t know: Two of Price’s children are college athletes. Hudson plays basketball at Texas Christian; Caroline is an All-American on North Carolina’s women’s tennis team.

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