Attracting a big-name coach could be difficult, particularly if you’re a mid-major. The Charlotte 49ers were able to do so more by chance than by design when they hired former NBA All-Star Mark Price to take over their program. Price had been an assistant with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets when the opportunity arose nearby.
He took over the 49ers program prior to last season and led them to a 14-19 record in his first year as a head coach at the NCAA Division I level. But his lack of coaching experience is balanced by a name recognition that could help create a turnaround for the 49ers, who have not made the NCAA tournament since 2005.
After a respectable 9-9 conference record his first season in Charlotte, Price is just getting warmed up and is optimistic about the path of his program moving forward.
His formula for success stems from his time as a consensus All-American guard at Georgia Tech.
“They brought in John Salley and myself in together and we started building year by year and adding pieces to the puzzle and building a program,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do here at Charlotte: build a quality program that’s going to compete in our conference and have a chance to play in the postseason.”
Growing up the son of a head coach, Price isn’t exactly new to the process and says he is able to draw inspiration from watching his father and thinking back to his playing days.
“From a personality standpoint, I probably line-up a little closer to Lenny Wilkins,” said Price, who played seven seasons under Wilkins.
Price says he takes a lot from his former coach and his day-to-day approach that helped make him the winningest coach in NBA history at the time of his retirement.
Charlotte has five new players added to its young-but-talented roster, highlighted by incoming Clemson transfer Austin Ajukwa. The 6’7 junior will have two years of eligibility with Charlotte after seeing action in 55 games over two years at Clemson, and Price says he adds some much needed depth to his roster.
6’7 junior guard Hudson Price is Mark’s son and will also be eligible to play this year after transferring from TCU. Price said his son brings some much needed experience and versatility after playing in 53 games for the Horned Frogs over two years. Price also pointed to 6’3 freshman Quentin Jackson as a player that he is really excited about and expects to make an immediate impact for Charlotte.
Aside from his success on the court, Price is also known in pop-culture lore for his likeness in the classic arcade game “NBA Jam” where his character was simply unstoppable from three-point range.
“I’ve never much been into playing video games but I am aware of NBA Jam,” he said. “A lot of people said I was pretty good from the three-point line in that game.”
There’s no word on whether his NBA Jam legacy has helped Charlotte on the recruiting trail, but Price points out that being one of seven players to have his number retired by the Cleveland Cavaliers doesn’t hurt.