South's Greatest Basketball Programs: No. 23 Charlotte 49ers
UNC Charlotte 49ers
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Reason for Nickname: Unlike football’s San Francisco 49ers, the Charlotte 49ers earned their nickname not because of gold rushes, but because of 1949, when the University of North Carolina at Charlotte was saved from bankruptcy and transformed into the present-day university.
Colors: Green, Gold, and Black
Arena: Dale F. Halton Arena (built 1996, capacity 9,105)
Conference USA: Tournament Champions (1999, 2001) Regular Season (2004)
Metro Conference: Regular Season (1995) Tournament (1992)
Sun Belt: Regular Season (1977, 1978, 1988) Tournament (1977, 1988)
NCAA Tournament: 1977, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005
NIT: 1976, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2006, 2008
Charlotte’s basketball tradition can be seen in the great coaches who have led championship and postseason teams. For any 49ers fan, the legendary line would start with Lee Rose, who led the team to the 1976 NIT Final Four and the 1977 NCAA Final Four, which would garner him Sun Belt Coach of the Year in that same year.
Next in line would be Jeff Mullins, who would lead the 49ers out of the doldrums and into a period of sustained success and five postseason appearances during his tenure. After Mullins left, he was replaced by former UNC Charlotte standout Melvin Watkins, who would take Charlotte to two NCAA appearances in each of his two seasons, reaching the second round on both occasions.
He would in turn be followed by Bobby Lutz, who would take the 49ers to five NCAA appearances and a Conference USA regular season championship in 2004. Lutz also led the 49ers to the Conference USA Tournament championship in both 1999 and 2001 and is now the winningest coach in Charlotte history.
Big Man On Campus
Cedric Maxwell is considered one of Charlotte’s greats in basketball. Maxwell played a key part in leading the 49ers to the 1977 Final Four and is currently sixth all-time in points scored. He would parlay his success into an 11-year career with the Boston Celtics, Clippers, and Rockets. Currently, he is working in radio with the Boston Celtics. Other players of note would include former Pistons guard Rodney White, Brendan Plavich, and 2005 Conference USA Player of the Year Eddie Basden.
Over the years, the 49ers have had its share of rivalries. During their time in Conference USA, Charlotte had rivalries with Cincinnati and Louisville, teams that normally contended, along with the 49ers, for the conference crown. Since the 49ers joined the Atlantic 10, it’s been hard to figure who will be their big rival in basketball because of geography. All signs would likely point to possibly George Washington or Xavier (Ohio) for consideration as rivals in the Atlantic 10.
Did You Know?
The main campus of UNC Charlotte is located on N.C. Highway 49, which may also explain the reason for the nickname of the athletic programs.
Charlotte 49ers Basketball by the Numbers
Wins (through 2009): 705
Postseason Appearances: 17
NCAA Appearances: 11
Final Fours: one
Conference Regular Season Championships: five
Conference Tournament Championships:five
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