Clark Atlanta had success with its last NBA-player-turned-coach. So much that it had to try again.
The Panthers introduced George Lynch as their men’s basketball coach Monday. Lynch, a 12-year NBA veteran and North Carolina standout, was coaching with the Grand Rapids Drive, the Detroit Pistons’ G-League affiliate, last season.
“It was an honor to take this interview and follow up coach Darrell Walker,” Lynch said. “He’s done a great job at leading the young men and the university. I’d like to continue their success in seeing these young men graduate and follow their dreams. That’s my goal.”
Lynch helped lead the Tar Heels to a National Championship in 1993. He was a captain for Dean Smith’s team, and won the tournament’s East Regional MVP.
The Lakers drafted Lynch in the first round of the 1993 draft. He also played for the Grizzlies, 76ers and Hornets. He earned second-team All-NBA defensive team honors with the Eastern champion Sixers in 2001.
CAU athletic director J Lin Dawson said they had over 60 applicants for the job, including inquiries from seven former NBA players.
“We were particularly looking for someone who would win championships,” Dawson said. “Someone who would demand graduation. Someone who would develop our student athletes as leaders. We believe that we have found such a one.”
The Panthers qualified for the NCAA Division II National Tournament the past two seasons under Walker, who accepted the coaching position at University of Arkansas-Little Rock in March.
Lynch played under Walker for two seasons when he was an assistant coach with the Hornets. He turned to him about the CAU job.
“He said the people, the faculty and the staff was very welcoming,” Lynch said. “They embraced him with open arms. The community in Atlanta supported him. As a head coach, you really need that. You need the fan base support. You need support from your community.”
Lynch retired after the 2005 season. He worked as a graduate assistant at SMU before accepting an assistant athletic director position at UC-Irvine. He parlayed that into a strength and conditioning coaching job, then returned to SMU to do the same from 2012-15.
Looking back on his collegiate days, Lynch remembers what he learned from Smith, and hopes to translate it in Atlanta.
“Just the way he treated his players,” he said. “Treat them with respect and demand from them to play the right way. ... I’m ready to take the opportunity to help these young men have the opportunities others do when they play college basketball.”