Charlotte certainly has a head coach with star power.
Former NBA star Mark Price enters his second year as the 49ers’ coach as someone everybody in the basketball community knows and loves.
We know a lot about the player Mark Price.
He’s the four-time NBA All-Star, one of the more deadly shooters the game has ever seen, and one of seven players in the 50-40-90 club (shooting at or above 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three-point line, and 90 percent from the free-throw line for a full season).
However, what do we know about the coach Mark Price?
After 15 years of being an assistant at the high school, college (his alma mater Georgia Tech and Charlotte) and NBA (Denver, Atlanta, Golden State and Orlando) levels, Price got his first crack at leading a team of his own last season (not counting his stint as head coach of Whitefield Academy in Atlanta and the South Dragons of the Australian NBL).
It was not a smashing success for Price out of the gate — the 49ers went just 14-19, 9-9 in Conference USA last season.
That said, there is some legitimate hope that Price can find success at Charlotte—and soon.
With the trend of ex-NBA players or coaches (Kevin Ollie, Chris Mullin, Bobby Hurley, Avery Johnson, etc.) finding success at the college level, some anticipate that Price can have a similar impact. Players and recruits always seem to relate to coaches who played and/or coached in the NBA.
Look at the classes Ollie, Mullin, Hurley and Johnson are bringing in this year for proof.
Considering the connections Price has at his disposal, recruits will take notice. Plus, the way Price worked on his game while flourishing in the NBA — despite many saying he was too small and slow to make it there — speaks volumes about the dedication he gives to his craft.
Why not expect that work ethic to cross over to coaching?
You would think he is the perfect coach to get the most out of his players, given what he squeezed out of his 6-foot, 170-pound frame.
Who wouldn’t want to play for a coach like that?
Price already is off to a fine start on the recruiting front. He secured the third-best 2016 recruiting class in Conference USA according to 247Sports. He is bringing in combo guard Quentin Jackson, who turned down major offers (Iowa State, Providence, Ole Miss and Tennessee) to pledge to play for Price and the 49ers.
As for what Price is bringing back for this season, he does retain his point guard and leading scorer Braxton Ogbueze, who started his career at Florida as a four-star recruit. Ogbueze is coming off a junior season in which he averaged 14.5 points and 2.6 assists per game.
His leadership will prove to be invaluable as he tries to quarterback the 49ers.
Also returning are two players who scored in double figures last year. Sophomore guards Jon Davis (11.7 points and a team-high 4.7 assists per game) and Andrien White (10.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game) both offer an appreciable degree of upside.
Ogbueze, Davis and White give Price a lot of backcourt depth. Plus, Price is adding major transfers, guards Austin Ajukwa (Clemson) and Hudson Price (TCU), Mark’s own son. Price also adds a key piece to the frontcourt in junior college transfer J.C. Washington.
— Mark Price (@Mark25Price) August 29, 2016
While the 49ers’ frontcourt is a liability, Price has a backcourt that can line up with the best Conference USA has to offer.
If you recall, Charlotte was a regular participant in the NCAA Tournament back in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Conference USA boasted the likes of Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, Marquette and DePaul. From 1995-2005, the 49ers appeared in eight NCAA Tournaments under Melvin Watkins and Bobby Lutz.
So, there is a not-too-distant and successful past that Price can sell to recruits. Charlotte has for the most part been a consistent winner, posting 15 winning seasons in the last 23 years.
Plus, the possible move up the ladder in Conference USA is not too daunting a task for Price.
While UAB has found sustained success in the conference, there really is no hierarchy of dominant teams Price has to concern himself with. Considering the success Middle Tennessee found under Kermit Davis last season when his team made the NCAA Tournament and shocked Michigan State in the process, there is no reason to suggest Price can’t deliver similar results in due time.
When you factor in Price’s pedigree, experience, NBA connections and a solid recruiting base to work with, he has the right qualities to succeed at this level.
After 11 years without an NCAA Tournament appearance, Charlotte is thirsty for a return. Price has the 49ers on the right trajectory, and whether an NCAA Tournament bid comes this year or not, he is giving the fan base a reason to get excited.