CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Several hours before he would coach his team to a victory at No. 18 Clemson, Charlotte's Bobby Lutz wandered around the campus where he started his coaching career as a graduate assistant.
Lutz thought back to working for Cliff Ellis and how it shaped his coaching style. Lutz also kept thinking about the lowest moment of his life.
As Lutz walked alone, he realized Wednesday was one day shy of the 23-year anniversary of the death of his sister, Tammy, who was killed in a car accident on the way to Clemson to watch her big brother coach in his first Atlantic Coast Conference game.
Lutz then decided, win or lose, he was going to tell his players about his kid sister for the first time after the game.
``I would talk to the team about things other than basketball,'' Lutz said Thursday. ``I just wanted to make sure the guys understood how much they meant to me.''
The fiery Lutz then went out and did something he's made a habit of at Charlotte - lead the 49ers to an upset win. Minutes after the 82-72 victory, Lutz was in the locker room talking about family.
``It was very emotional,'' said senior guard Leemire Goldwire, who led Charlotte with 21 points and 10 rebounds. ``For me personally I didn't even know he had a sister. You saw tears in his eyes. I just said, 'Let it go.' Sometimes you just have to let it go.''
Lutz rarely talks publicly about his sister, and was reluctant again Thursday. But barely a day goes by that he doesn't think about her.
Like her older brother, Tammy had recently graduated from Charlotte. Part of a sports family, Tammy knew that two days earlier the 26-year-old Bobby had helped put together a game plan that led Clemson to an upset win over No. 8 Georgia Tech.
``I remember as a young coach being on top of the world,'' Lutz recalled.
So Tammy was going to see her big brother coach against North Carolina State on Jan. 10, 1985. She hopped in a car with her fiancee and left her family's home near Denver, N.C.
The car hit a tree and she never regained consciousness. She was 23.
Bobby gave the eulogy at the funeral, and read a poem from one of Tammy's friends that he still has.
Ellis, who remembers Lutz as an eager young coach full of energy, recalled how quickly Lutz rejoined the team.
``He knew that is what his sister would have wanted him to do,'' said Ellis, now the coach at Coastal Carolina. ``He bounced back immediately. It really hurt him deeply. But I think at that time he needed the game.''
It was then that Lutz knew he had to stay in coaching. His sister wanted to be a teacher, and this was his chance to teach.
``The best of her is a lot better than me,'' Lutz said. ``If I can be a little more like her in the way I deal with people, that makes me a better person. She was just naturally great with people, and with kids in particular.''
After two seasons at Clemson, Lutz decided he needed to be closer to his family. He took the head coaching job at tiny Pfeiffer College in Misenheimer for $18,000 a year.
``It got me closer to my parents. I'm the only surviving child,'' Lutz said. ``It was the right thing to do. I never questioned it.''
The loyalty to his family, his parents, his wife and two daughters has shaped his career. It's why he ended up at Charlotte, and it's why this summer he turned down a six-year deal to coach South Alabama.
The 49-year-old Lutz wants to stay at Charlotte, where he bought a brick with Tammy's name that is on the marquee outside the arena. The administration has so far denied him a contract extension.
``I don't know if it not for his family if he wouldn't have taken the South Alabama job,'' Ellis said. ``He had the opportunity to leave there, but his loyalty to his school and his family is why he's there. And Charlotte wouldn't have beaten Clemson if Bobby had left.''
But maybe Tammy had something to do with it. A man of faith, Lutz felt maybe the younger sister he was so protective of growing up had helped steer him to his biggest win in nearly three years.
``The ball sure did seem to bounce our way a couple of times,'' Lutz said. ``You'd like to think that somehow she had a little something to do with it.''

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