Some pretty interesting and candid quotes from Bobby Lutz in this week’s CSW, be sure to pick one up.
EDIT: Here’s the article…you guys should still pick one up, great Final Four coverage. And some racin’ as well.
Charlotte head coach Bobby Lutz swears he wasn’t thinking about a second-round matchup when his 49ers held a 14-point lead against N.C. State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
That’s good for him.
Because while the rest of 49er Nation began thinking about their chances against Connecticut in the round of 32, the guys on the court were slowly letting the season slip away.
“During the game, all I’m thinking about is that game and hoping we can continue to play at that level,” Lutz said. “We knew they weren’t going to quit and we tried to stay ag gressive and keep attacking, not playing the score and I thought we did that.”
But then the loose balls started to find the hands of the Wolfpack. Brendan Plavich couldn’t add to his five 3-pointers in the first half. Eddie Basden was having trouble finishing drives or drawing fouls. Curtis Withers was turning the ball over.
And then it was over.
Basden and Plavich, who both set the goal of making a deep run in the tournament, had played their last games as 49ers.
“It was obviously a disappointment, but when you set high goals, you set yourself up for that,” Lutz said. “But the problem is fans sometimes feel it’s a failure if you don’t achieve those goals and I don’t think that’s accurate. So, while we’re disappointed, we won 21 games and accomplished a lot.”
Charlotte may have proved the so-called experts who picked them to finish fourth or fifth in Conference USA wrong with its sec ond-place finish, but a four-game losing streak to end the season provided an all too familiar feeling for 49er fans.
While Charlotte has made the big dance five of the last seven seasons, the inability to get through the first weekend of the tournament has left fans longing for more.
“We’re doing everything we can do,” Lutz said. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing. I don’t think there’s anything we can do different, just keep recruiting the best guys we can, hope we’re playing a little better at the end of the year, and hope the sched ule is a little more favorable so we have some momentum going in.”
The end of the season, Charlotte’s last in C-USA, saw the 49ers lose at Louisville and South Florida on their senior nights, then against Memphis in the conference tournament on the Tigers home floor.
The 0-for-March performance followed a perfect February during which Charlotte went 7-0 and was ranked as high as No. 18 in the nation.
Charlotte sold out games against Memphis and Southern Mississippi and life in University City was good.
Now, Coach Lutz says he doesn’t worry that interest in the 49ers will wane as they head to the Atlantic 10 next season.
“I don’t worry about it because all we can do is put the best product on the floor we can and then promote it,” Lutz said. “But my point is that people should come because of the Charlotte 49ers, regardless of who we’re playing.”
Time will tell if Lutz, himself, remains part of that product. Last Tuesday, Lutz confirmed that he is a candidate for the vacant head coaching position at the University of Tennessee.
“At this time it’s not appropriate to comment further in fairness to UNC Charlotte and the University of Tennessee,” Lutz said.
Tennessee’s search for a head coach reportedly has come down to Lutz and Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Bruce Pearl. Pearl met with UT officials on Friday after his team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.
UAB’s Mike Anderson and Creighton’s Dana Altman had also interviewed with UT, but both withdrew their names from consideration on Saturday.
If Lutz returns to the helm next season, he could potentially be without Basden, Plavich and junior Curtis Withers. Lutz said Withers would probably attend the NBA pre-draft camps in Chicago this summer, without hiring an agent.
“I’ll make sure he’s invited to Chicago, which I’m sure he will be,” Lutz said. “But with all the NBA people I’ve talked to, he’s not a first-round pick right now. That could change in Chicago, but if it doesn’t, he needs to come back, and he knows that.”
The decisions of Lutz and Withers will weigh heavily on a program that sits at a crossroads.
Gone are the guaranteed visits of power house programs like Louisville and Cincinnati. Instead, 49er fans will settle for games against Dayton, Xavier and St. Joe’s of the A-10.
“The A-10 is a very good league, but it’s not one of the top leagues,” Lutz said. “Recruiting depends on what league you’re in and your school. That’s the reality of it.”
Still, Lutz maintains the Charlotte program has had quite a successful run.
“Look at the ACC, as great a league as it is, and look at the schools that have been to the tournament seven out of nine years,” Lutz said. “There’s not a lot. It’s difficult to sus tain it and to make the next step. It’s a fun challenge, but not as easy as some people might think it is.”
Only time will tell if Lutz can get Charlotte to take the next step, or if he will choose to accept another challenge elsewhere.