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Charlotte 49ers selected wrong time to dismiss Alan Major

Alan Major’s tenure as the Charlotte 49ers’ head coach ended at an odd time Sunday – while sports fans were riveted to the Selection Sunday show.
Alan Major’s tenure as the Charlotte 49ers’ head coach ended at an odd time Sunday – while sports fans were riveted to the Selection Sunday show. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

As I wrote last week, and as everybody that follows the sport knows, Charlotte had to fire Alan Major.

But did the 49ers have to fire him on Selection Sunday?

The timing is strange for two reasons. The first is that, sources say, the school decided to fire Major weeks ago. School officials might already have hired a search firm to help them find a replacement.

The second is that Selection Sunday is a celebration of the sport. The 49ers weren’t trying to hide behind the brackets and bury the news. They were trying to be part of it. There’s Davidson, Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County (non) buddy, getting a bid to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. There’s Charlotte staying home yet again.

As basketball fans watched the Selection Sunday show, Charlotte issued a news release at 6:20 p.m. It said: “The Charlotte 49ers and head men’s basketball coach Alan Major have mutually agreed to part ways after his five-year stint with the program.”

It is conceivable and perhaps likely that Major will never be a head coach again. He might be a career assistant; that, too, is an important role. Major has had health issues. But head coach is not a job people tend to mutually agree to leave.

Charlotte basketball once was a compelling product. You sat in the bleachers or on press row at beautiful Halton Arena and you wanted to text your friends. Unfortunately, those days were so long ago that texting probably had not been invented.

Last season Charlotte attracted an average of 4,376 fans. Games didn’t matter.

The job of the new coach is to make them matter.

But he won’t simply win his way out of the obscurity in which the 49ers toil. He has to sell this program. He has to make Charlotte, the city, feel as if it has an opportunity to be part of something special.

A successful coach sells his philosophy to his players. Charlotte’s coach must sell his philosophy to an apathetic fan base and an uninterested town.

He also has to recruit the South. There are promising potential coaches an easy drive away. As I wrote last week, Charlotte can look to Winthrop, look to Wofford or look to N.C. Central. It can look to Florida Gulf Coast. Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley, who no longer looks perpetually sad, has tremendous potential.

Whomever Charlotte hires, he has to be a head coach. Major had never been.

Athletics director Judy Rose needs to explain to the media her decision to mutually part ways with Major. I tried and failed to reach her last week.

Fans have given up, and they’re entitled to. They aren’t entitled to victories, not every season. But they’re entitled to hope. Otherwise why would they invest their passion, money and time?

Rose owes the media nothing. But she owes her dwindling fan base everything. Fans are entitled to know what she’s thinking and why – after the Major hire – they should trust her. The media is nothing more than a conduit. Use us to reach them.

With the NCAA tournament going on, this week will be as beautifully busy as Selection Sunday was.

But if Rose holds a news conference, I assure you that we’ll make time.

Sorensen: 704-358-5129; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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