Charlotte head coach Alan Major will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the basketball program, the school announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Ryan Odom will act as the interim coach in his place.
“This is an extremely difficult basketball decision for me to make, but more importantly, it’s a life and health decision,” Major said in a statement released by the university today. That release did not identify what is currently ailing Major. “It will be difficult being away from the team but I’ll maintain contact with the guys on a regular basis. I have the best staff in the country and those guys are fully-prepared to take our team into battle. I look forward to attacking this recovery process and getting back to leading this program into the future.”
This isn’t the first time that health problems have forced Major to step away from the job. During the summer, he was forced to take leave due to health issues that required heart and eye surgeries.
There is no timetable for his return.
Charlotte is 6-7 on the season.
After finishing the 2013-14 season with a 17-14 record (7-9 Conference USA), Charlotte enters the 2014-15 season with hopes of improving on those marks. Head coach Alan Major welcomes back an experienced backcourt led by senior Pierria Henry, and Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze will help from a depth standpoint after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.
One player whose role may have changed as a result of the number of guards capable of earning playing time was junior guard Shawn Lester, who averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season despite making just one start. However Lester won’t factor into the 49ers’ plans, as it was announced Thursday that he’s decided to leave the program in order to pursue professional opportunities.
“Although we are saddened that Shawn will not be with us, we are fully supporting him and his family as he makes this transition,” Major said in the school release. “We thank him for his efforts, and he will be a Niner for life.”
In addition to Henry, who led the team in points, assists and steals in 2013-14, Charlotte returns Terrence Williams (10.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Ivan Benkovic will return to the floor after sitting out all of last season with a back injury. Freshmen Torin Dorn Jr. and Keyshawn Woods will also look to compete for playing time.
Holding onto Lester would have given Charlotte an experienced option off the bench who’s proven that he can provide some extra scoring. But they do have the depth needed to account for his departure, even with the timing of the move being a bit peculiar.
With Pierria Henry and Terrence Williams both being seniors, adding another body (or more) to the backcourt is something Charlotte head coach Alan Major and his staff needed to do on the recruiting trail. Sunday evening the Conference USA program did just that, receiving a verbal commitment from 6-foot-3 combo guard Bryce Brown.
Brown made the decision after taking an unofficial visit to Charlotte this weekend. In a story written by Justin Young of Hoopseen.com, Brown mentioned academics and Charlotte’s style of play as reasons for his decision to commit.
“Their style fits me. They get out and run the floor, shoot the transition three. Their players can dribble, pass and shoot and they like that in their program,” Brown said. “That’s what brought me to Charlotte. Coach Major is a great guy and I look forward to playing for him.”
Also of note in the story is the fact that Brown was on the receiving end of increased attention from college coaches in recent weeks, with his ability to shoot the basketball being one reason why. As a junior at Columbia HS in Decatur, Georgia Brown averaged 18.0 points and 5.0 assists per game and helped lead the team to a 28-5 record. Brown will finish his high school career at Tucker HS in Tucker, Georgia.
As noted above Charlotte has to account for the eventual loss of two seniors, with Henry and Williams combining to average nearly 23 points and ten rebounds per game in 2013-14. Among the guards who will have eligibility remaining when Brown arrives on campus are Florida transfer Braxton Ogbueze, junior Shawn Lester (11.9 ppg last season) and freshmen Torin Dorn and Keyshawn Woods.