ATLANTA (BP)–Former basketball star Mark Price has picked up a lot of titles since leaving Enid, Okla., in 1982 for Georgia Tech and then the NBA — three-time all-ACC, four-time NBA all-star and Dream Team II gold medalist.
But he recently added another — “Coach Price.”
“I’ve always enjoyed Tech and Coach [Bobby] Cremins,” said Price of his return to the program he helped raise to its first ACC championship in 1985 against some of the finest basketball teams in the nation.
But the Ramblin’ Wreck team was not where the talented point guard expected to play in college.
“I was not really planning to go that far from home,” Price recounted. But he felt an obligation to at least make a casual visit since Cremins and his then-assistant coach, George Felton, “had come all the way to Enid, Okla., 17 times.”
“It was amazing,” Price said of the way the team went from “last place my freshman year to ACC champions two years later.” And anyone familiar with that 1985 championship team knows the vital role Price played in its success.
Price, in his usual humble manner, said he was a “latecomer” not heavily recruited by the top programs in the nation. And, to be sure, the basketball team at Tech seemed like a long way from the top when Price came on campus.
“I believed in Coach Cremins and his desire to build this program,” said Price who served as team captain from 1984-86 and had his jersey retired in 1986.
In the same way Price’s talents were underestimated by college recruiters, so were the expectations for him as a professional. But after 12 years in the NBA, nine with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Price can look back with gratitude on his success.
“The Lord blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined,” he said, reflecting on his years in the NBA. “Obviously, I’d like to take away the injuries,” he said, “But I try to remember the good things.”
And there is much good to remember for the talented ball handler and three-point shooter, who was selected among the best players in the world to form Dream Team II.
Throughout both his collegiate and professional careers Price was known for his strong Christian values and integrity. And even in an environment like the NBA, he was not distracted from his deep commitment.
“You really have to make an effort to spend time with the Lord,” he said of the demanding travel during basketball season that makes church involvement and personal devotion more difficult. And Christian players “need accountability” to make the right decisions when faced with the temptations so available to pro athletes.
“I could probably still be playing now,” said Price, who ended his career following injury. “But I’ve got four kids now and [the NBA] is not real family oriented, [and] the travel is hard.”
Back in Atlanta, Price and his wife, Laura, are enjoying a more normal lifestyle for themselves and their four children, Brittany, 9; Caroline, 6; Hudson, 5; and Joshua, 9 months. They are active members of Victory in Jesus Baptist Church in Duluth, Ga., where Mark volunteers as music director.
But back over in Tech’s Alexander Coliseum, the player who helped raise a team to national prominence will be trying to do so once again, but in a new role — one he has learned to appreciate even more recently.
“There’s a lot more to [coaching] than rolling the ball out there and putting guys in the right places,” Price said. “In the midst of a major college basketball program is not unlike the NBA,” he said, in terms of “the pressure to win.”
But winning is not all Price wants the players to know.
“I hope I can encourage these kids so they will know that I value them as God values them.”