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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Charlotte 49ers athletic director Judy Rose said the decision to fire men's basketball coach Mark Price was strictly performance-based, citing the team's lack of intensity.
The school announced Thursday that Price was released from his contract effective immediately. Assistant coach Houston Fancher, who has 12 years of head coaching experience, will serve as the 49ers interim head coach.
The 53-year-old Price, who was a four-time NBA All-Star guard, was in his third season with the 49ers and had a 30-42 record overall. He was 16-20 in Conference USA play.
Charlotte is 3-6 this season.
Rose told The Associated Press on Thursday she felt the program was "trending in the wrong direction."
"When I looked at the games and how we came out and played, we weren't playing with the intensity to win — we weren't prepared," Rose said. "We would come out and fall behind and it was difficult to catch up."
Rose said she'd recently spoken to Price about what she considered a troubling trend.
She was particularly unhappy with the team's performance in the last two games — an 80-57 defeat to Wake Forest and a 64-50 loss to Chattanooga — part of a four-game losing streak.
"I told (Price) it looked like we were going through the motions, instead of playing with intensity," Rose said. "I didn't get an answer (as to why), and I didn't see an answer."
Price told the Charlotte Observer on Thursday that he was "stunned" by the move.
"I was called in this morning and was told they were going to make a change," Price told the newspaper. "They said they didn't like the direction of the program was taking and that I might have lost some of my players, which I don't agree with. But we didn't get quite as many wins as people wanted. That's the reality of the business."
Price was a two-time All-American and four-time All ACC basketball player at Georgia Tech, where he ended his career as the school's all-time leader in 3-point field goal percentage, steals and consecutive games started.
He went on to play 13 seasons in the NBA, including nine with the Cleveland Cavaliers and was selected as an All-Star in 1989 and 1992-94.
Price became an assistant coach at Georgia Tech in 1999 and later worked with a number of NBA teams including Denver, Atlanta, Golden State, Orlando and Charlotte.
He took over as 49ers coach in 2015 after the school parted ways with Alan Major.
"Mark and (his wife) Laura have dedicated time and energy to strengthen our men's basketball program," Charlotte Chancellor Dr. Philip Dubois said in a release. "It's always difficult to part ways with such very fine people."
Rose said Fancher will serve as interim coach through the end of the season and she will reevaluate at that.
"We just want to turn this season around," Rose said.
The 51-year-old Fancher spent nine seasons (2000-09) as the head coach at Appalachian State and was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2007. He also coached at North Greenville.
Charlotte travels to East Carolina on Monday.
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