We Got Game

“Hello, Niner Nation! Are you ready to go?”

With that, Mike Hill introduced himself at his on-campus press conference on March 6 as the seventh director of athletics in Charlotte 49ers history. Less than two weeks later, he announced the hiring of Ron Sanchez as the 49ers’ head men’s basketball coach.

“This is a dream come true,” Sanchez said. “It’s truly a blessing.”

For both Hill, who comes to UNC Charlotte after nearly 25 years with the University of Florida Athletic Association, and Sanchez, who spent the past nine years with nationally ranked Virginia, the move to the 49ers was a long-awaited step in the perfect direction.

Hill, a native of Clemson, South Carolina, who attended North Carolina and spent significant time with family in Charlotte, was attracted instantly to the position.

“This is personal for me,” he said. “This is home.”

Over the past six years, Hill served as the Gators’ executive associate athletics director for external affairs, and earlier as chief marketing officer and brand manager, overseeing revenue development. He was a primary advisor to the Director of Athletics, the direct supervisor for men’s basketball and men’s tennis, and also served on the administrative fundraising team that developed strategies, cultivated donors and secured major gifts.

“We’re not in it to be ordinary; we’re in it to be extraordinary,” Hill contended. “Gold is the standard.”

His first order of business proved to be extraordinary as well.

Sanchez (pictured), listed by ESPN Insider as one of the nation’s top recruiters, is long regarded as possessing head coach potential. CBSSports.com listed him among the nation’s assistant coaches likely to be head coaching standouts, and Yahoo Sports ranked him first among assistant coaches to receive head coaching attention this offseason.

For the past 12 years, he’s worked with two-time National Coach of the Year Tony Bennett, first at Washington State, then at Virginia, as they built those programs into national powers. Since 2015, he’s been Virginia’s associate head coach. Over the course of his tenure, the Cavaliers won 212 games, three ACC regular-season titles and two ACC Tournament titles, while making six appearances in the NCAA Tournament and one at the NIT. While on staff, the Cavaliers earned an NCAA number-one seed, three times. In four of the past five seasons, Virginia has won 29 or more games.

"I am honored that the 49ers have entrusted me with their men's basketball program,” Sanchez said of his new position. “I’ve waited a long time for the right fit and I truly believe in the leadership of this department. I cannot be more excited to get started.”

Niner Nation is ready as well.