Ron Sanchez steps down at Charlotte to rejoin Virginia staff

Ron Sanchez stepped down as the Charlotte men's basketball head coach on Tuesday and will return to Virginia as associate head coach under Tony Bennett.

Sanchez is coming off a season in which he guided the 49ers to a 22-14 record and College Basketball Invitational championship. He was at the helm for five years.

"This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities," Sanchez said in his resignation announcement. "It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the University. I can only hope that the impact we made on our student-athletes is as strong as the impact they have made on us."

Shortly after Charlotte announced his departure, Virginia announced Sanchez would be returning to the program where he spent nine seasons on Bennett's staff.

"The University of Virginia is truly special to me and my family," Sanchez said in his statement. "It is the only institution I would vacate my head coaching position for. I'm thankful for the opportunity to return to Grounds with a newfound lens and perspective.

"I'm also excited to reconnect with the staff and join their efforts in sustaining the incredible success this program has had over the last decade. I look forward to serving Coach Bennett, the staff, the student-athletes and our community."

During his five seasons at Charlotte, Sanchez went 72-78 -- capped off by 22 wins this past season, the program's most in more than 20 years.

"We are thrilled to welcome Ron and his family back to the University of Virginia," Bennett said. "Ron played an integral part in building this program and was a pillar in the community. He is an outstanding recruiter and coach, and really connects with student-athletes. Ron's last five years as a head coach enhances what he will bring back to our basketball program."

Sanchez's departure comes in a time of transition for Charlotte's athletic department, as the school is moving from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference next season. The men's basketball program hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2005.

"Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men. His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness," Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill said. "Our competitive goals are clear. We are driven to regularly contend for American Athletic Conference championships and return to the NCAA tournament. We have commenced a national search for our next head coach and are excited about the future."

On Wednesday, Charlotte named associate coach Aaron Fearne its interim head coach. The program is conducting a national search for a full-time replacement.