CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former NBA guard Mark Price is experiencing some growing pains in his first year as coach of the Charlotte 49ers.
Price's 49ers are off a 2-9 start, although the coach is optimistic his team is headed in the right direction.
"It's been a big adjustment, I'm not going to lie," said Price, who spent the previous two seasons working as an assistant on Steve Clifford's staff with the Charlotte Hornets.
"There are so many more irons in the fire when you are talking about the recruiting side and the academic side. Guys in the NBA, you are used to working with them and they have families to go home to or whatever. These kids are kind of your responsibility 24-7."
Not that Price is complaining.
He's relishing his first college head coaching opportunity and likes his team, despite entering a tough situation in Charlotte.Shortly after he was hired four key players, including three starters, transferred from the program leaving the shelves fairly bare and forcing Price into an immediate mass recruiting role. Among the transfers included Torn Dorn, the Conference USA freshman of the year last season, who moved on to North Carolina State.
Center Mike Thorne (Illinois), forward Willie Clayton (Georgia State), top reserve Keyshawn Woods (Wake Forest) all transferred in the spring and top recruit Ebuka Izundu backed out of his commitment to Charlotte and enrolled at Miami.
Price said his new players are still getting to know each other on and off the court with most of them never having played together before.
That isn't easy, said Georgetown coach John Thompson III after the Hoyas' 62-59 win over Charlotte earlier this week.
"It's an extremely difficult situation when so many players leave," Thompson said. "... When you come into a place as a first-year coach where when you took the job a lot guys you thought were going to be with you leave, that is life. That is college basketball."
Thompson said the 49ers are better than their record indicates, and quickly noticed how well they were coached from watching them on film.
Price said he knew he was going to lose some players to transfer, but wasn't sure how many.
Price, a two-time All-American at Georgia Tech who played 12 seasons in the NBA, including nine with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was nominated for enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this week. He said he didn't take the players' decisions personally, knowing it is part of the ever-changing landscape of college basketball.
"All you can do is go out and restock and start over again," Price said. "... It's seems like that is where college basketball is at right now. There were more than 700 transfers last year. It's a like a cancer or something."
Price, 51, is trying to look at the positive.
"In a way it has been good because I have gotten to bring in my own guys right away and start from scratch," Price said. "Although you do have growing pains it's a process. But I'm excited about the future of the programs. ... We'll eventually get to where we want to get to."
Said Thompson: "It's going to take time and if you are patient with him you will see that they have a terrific coach that is going to build a terrific program, not just a terrific team."