College Basketball

Mark Price busy building Charlotte 49ers basketball his way

Charlotte 49ers new head basketball coach Mark Price – whose last experience with the college game came as an assistant to Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech during the 1999-2000 season – has had to learn on the fly the differences from college and the NBA, where he spent 22 years as a player and coach.
Charlotte 49ers new head basketball coach Mark Price – whose last experience with the college game came as an assistant to Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech during the 1999-2000 season – has had to learn on the fly the differences from college and the NBA, where he spent 22 years as a player and coach. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Mark Price has been a busy guy the past 2 1/2 months.

Since taking over as Charlotte’s men’s basketball coach in late March, Price has assembled a staff of assistant coaches and even signed a handful of players to replace those departing because of graduation or other reasons.

Now the former NBA All-Star and assistant coach is ready for what comes next.

“I can’t wait for the second summer session,” Price said Thursday. “Hopefully all of our guys will be here. We can start getting on the floor, putting in some work and start moving this thing forward.”

Price was named Charlotte’s coach March 26, after spending the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Hornets. He replaced Alan Major, who stepped down March 15 after five seasons.

Yet Price, whose last experience with the college game came as an assistant to Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech during the 1999-2000 season, has had to learn on the fly the differences from college and the NBA, where he spent 22 seasons as a player or coach.

“It’s the amount of different T’s and I’s you have to cross and dot,” Price said. “In the pro game, you’re basically coaching basketball; that’s all you do. In the college game, there’s a lot more moving parts: there’s the academic side of things, and the recruiting side of things.

“There’s a lot more action in different directions. Getting your arms around that, that’s why it’s important that you put a great staff of people around you.”

That’s why Price looked for experience in putting together his coaching staff. He brought on former Appalachian State coach Houston Fancher and 28-year veteran assistant Chris Ferguson within days of being hiring. He later added former Winston-Salem State, UNC Wilmington and Western Carolina assistant Andre Gray.

“I needed that on my staff,” Price said of his assistants’ experience. “I know a lot about the game, but I haven’t been around the college game for a while. So there’s always holes that need to be filled, and I wanted guys around me who had a lot of experience at this level.

“They’re helpful every day. Different things have come along that I’m not used to being at the pro level. We’ve got a good combination.”

Price has also had to find players.

In addition to losing starters Pierria Henry and Terrence Williams to graduation, four others – guard Torin Dorn, Conference USA’s freshman of the year; guard Keyshawn Woods, forward Willie Clayton and center Mike Thorne – all transferred.

Prized recruit Ebuka Izundu also was granted his release from a signed commitment, and two other recruits backed out of verbal commitments when Major left.

Even with the late start, Price has already signed five players for next season – junior college transfers Anthony Vanhook, a forward, and guard Ridell Camidge; and guards Andrien White, Curran Scott and Jon Davis. He’s also reached but missed on several players looking to transfer from other programs, such as Memphis forward Nick King and Vanderbilt point guard Shelton Mitchell.

“All the years you work towards getting to this point, and now it’s my program,” Price said. “It’s a chance to build something the way I want to do it, and to get the kind of kids that I want to coach.

“That’s the biggest piece of advice I got from all the guys I’ve coached for and played for – regardless of what you do, make sure you do it your way. That’s my mindset going in. I have an idea of how I’m going to move this program forward, and I feel good about the way we’ve gotten started.”

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