Tic Price was in third grade.
"My team was down by one with about five or six seconds left," he said. "We had to push the ball the length of the court. The point guard passed it to me around half court and I just turned and fired and hit the shot at the buzzer. And Tic Price was born."
Since he was in elementary school, Lamar University head coach George Price has been known as "Tic" after his coach had bestowed upon him the title of "Tic-Toc," due to his clutch last-second shooting as a player. The name was eventually shortened to "Tic" by the time Price was in his senior year at Virginia Tech, were he led his squad to the NCAA Tournament and a first round matchup with Larry Bird's Indiana State.
Today, Price is entering his third season as Lamar’s head coach, since taking over the program with five games left in 2014, following Pat Knight's dismissal. At the time of his hiring, Price had transitioned out coaching and into the role of vice president of students affairs at Lamar. That was after nearly four decades as a coach, including stints as the head coach at Memphis, New Orleans and McNeese State.
In speaking with Price, his tone was at times confessional when discussing his career. He spoke of great reverence for his former coaching colleague Tommy Joe Eagles, whose sudden passing just before the season in 1994 left a mark on him and forced Price into the role of head coach for the first time in his career.
He led the Privateers to the NCAA Tournament just one year later. Price also spoke candidly about his setback after he was abruptly fired at Memphis, just before the start of the 1999 season, and was thankful to his old friend Ron Everheart for giving him a second chance as an assistant on his staff at McNeese State.
Price joked that the only reason he was offered the chance to be a head coach again was because Lamar could get him cheap and says that he likes the challenge of trying to rebuild the Lamar program and change the culture. The Cardinals have been on a downward spiral for several years and Price has a formidable task ahead to get Lamar back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. There's nowhere to go but up for a squad that finished dead last in the Southland Conference with an 11-19 record, including just 3-15 in conference.
Senior guard Marcus Owens will be the key figure to help ignite a turnaround for the Cardinals as he looks to improve on last year, when he averaged 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 30 games. Price felt last year’s squad lacked maturity, and he points to three incoming transfers, who all have previous experience at the Division I level, to have an immediate impact: 6-8 F Christian Albright (Abilene Christian), 6-1 G Joey Frenchwood (Montana State) and 6-5 F Colton Weisbrod (New Orleans).
Rebuilding the Lamar program into a contender will be as arduous a task as there is in the NCAA, but Tic Price is known for his heroics when the outlook seems grim.