In the opening round game of the conference tournament, the Niners hosted UMass. With 90 seconds left in that game and only down by three, the Niners were called for a technical foul for having six players on the court; Charlotte would inevitably lose the game. This lack of consciousness probably didn’t result in Lutz losing his job, but it was certainly the cherry on top. Inconsistency throughout the season and the late season fallout would cost the Niners a bid to the NCAA tournament and the NIT as well.
In 2005, Charlotte was victim to conference realignment. After winning the regular season conference title in Conference USA, they were moved to the Atlantic 10. The common notion was that Charlotte would run the table in the lesser conference. Unfortunately for Niner Nation and Lutz, that would never happen. Over those five seasons, the 49ers posted an 83-75 overall record, including a 41-39 in the conference. Last season, Charlotte hit a new low going 11-20, 5-12 in conference play. The 49ers did improve this season, posting a record of 19-12 and finished in a tie for fifth-place in the A10 with a 9-7 record. There are many reasons you can point the finger at why the Charlotte failed, but the bottomline is that they just didn't get it done.
Lutz leaves Charlotte as the programs all-time winningest coach, guiding the 49ers to eight post-season trips in his 12 year career. Those eight bids included a school-record five NCAA Tournament appearances, the last of which came in 2005. Since 2005, Charlotte has advanced to two NIT's in the last five years.
Where do the Niners turn now? Do they hire a proven coach such as College of Charleston’s Bobby Cremins? Maybe the great Bobby Knight? I’m sure Charlotte’s Director of Athletics Judy Rose can find a green sweater for Coach Knight. The consensus is that Charlotte will target a younger coach to rebuild the once great program. Kansas State’s Dalonte Hill, William and Mary's Tony Shaver and Vermont's Mike Lonergan have been suggested.
Hill was a player and an assistant coach for Charlotte. He was responsible for Michael Beasley’s original commitment to the Niners. Hill was quickly plucked from Charlotte by then KSU’s Bob Huggins, realizing that Beasley would follow his mentor to Kansas.
Charlotte needs to make a splash with this hiring. With college football on the horizon and set to begin play in 2013, Chancellor Phil Dubios and Rose must do what is necessary to satisfy the alumni and the community. The state of the 49ers program and university is in jeopardy, but Niner Nation should have faith in Rose.
I have had the privilege of developing a relationship with coach over the past five years. Lutz has always been there for Niner Nation and the University of Charlotte. No matter the circumstance, he would be there for any function if it meant one more student or member of the community would come support his alma mater and team. There are not many more coaches in the country that are as active with charitable causes as well. Bobby Lutz is a true class act and Charlotte will miss him.