College Basketball

Charlotte 49ers coach Alan Major taking indefinite medical leave of absence

For a second time in a year, Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball coach Alan Major is taking a medical leave of absence, the school announced Tuesday.

Major, 46, took a four-month leave last summer when he had surgeries on his eyes and heart. 49ers athletics director Judy Rose said Major returned to work in September before he fully recovered and has since suffered relapses. This most recent leave is indefinite.

“He said, ‘I came back too soon; I didn’t get well,’ ” said Rose.

Associate head coach Ryan Odom will replace Major on an interim basis . The 49ers play again Thursday in a Conference USA game at Western Kentucky.

“This is an extremely difficult basketball decision for me to make, but more importantly, it’s a life and health decision,” Major said in a statement. “It will be difficult being away from the team. I look forward to attacking this recovery process and getting back to leading this program into the future.”

Odom, who ran Charlotte’s program over the summer while Major took his first leave, has been with the 49ers throughout Major’s tenure. Odom came to Charlotte after seven seasons as an assistant at Virginia Tech. Before that, he was an assistant at American, UNC Asheville and Furman.

Odom, 40, is a former point guard at Hampden-Sydney (Va.) and is the son of former South Carolina, Wake Forest and East Carolina coach Dave Odom. Ryan Odom’s brother Lane is a former Charlotte assistant.

Major told his coaching staff and players of his leave Tuesday morning.

“(Everybody) was sad to hear how he’s feeling and that he’s dealing with this,” said Odom. “There were a lot of tears and hugs. He’s obviously not gone for good, but for an interim time. The guys can’t wait to get him back.”

Major, who has a 67-70 record in four-plus seasons with Charlotte, will not attend practices or games, but will be in touch regularly with Odom and 49ers players.

Rose said Major told her of his decision Monday night. Major had shown recent signs of relapsing, including a dizzy spell after an early-season game against South Carolina.

Major was diagnosed with glaucoma -- a disease that can lead to damage in the optic nerve -- in 2010, during his first season with the 49ers. He had surgeries on both his eyes over the summer, in addition to a catheter procedure to deal with an irregular heartbeat.

“I’ve got to ease my way, baby-step back into things a little bit here,” Major told the Observer when he returned to work in September. “I’ll probably work some abbreviated days, not the 10-, 12-hour crazy-man days, for a while. There’s no owner’s manual for this. So I'm going mostly by feel. But I’ll be on schedule.”

Major isn’t the only basketball coach who has dealt recently with health issues. Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin won’t coach again this season because of a non-life-threatening vascular condition. Butler’s Brandon Miller will not return from a medical leave of absence.

“(Major’s) doctors gave him the OK to come back, but nobody really understands the life and demands of being a coach,” said Rose. “It’s a 24-7 job, with no true vacation or down time.

“They won’t take the time for themselves to heal. They feel like they need to get back to the team. It’s a good thing for us to have them to be so invested in our young people. But we have to be just as invested in our (coaches), and to be there for them, too.”

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