By John Frierson
As a Georgia men’s basketball player, Charles Mann helped the Bulldogs reach three 20-win seasons during his career, from 2012-16. A four-year starter who earned multiple All-SEC honors, Mann holds the school record for both free throws made and attempted, and his 400 assists rank fifth all-time.
His job now as new coach Mike White‘s Director of Recruiting is to find versatile and valuable student-athletes like himself. Born in Queens, NY, Mann moved to the Atlanta area when he was in middle school and as a senior helped Milton High School win the 2012 Georgia 5A state championship.
After playing professionally both internationally (Canada, Latvia and Luxembourg) and in the NBA G-League, Mann turned his attention to coaching. He started out as a graduate assistant at VCU and spent last season as an assistant coach at Army. Now, Mann is back at Georgia, determined to get the Bulldogs not only back where they were when he was playing, but to help the program reach even greater heights.
During a recent Quick Chat, Mann talked about playing overseas, the former Georgia player and assistant coach that got him thinking about coaching, and much more. Here’s some of what he had to say:
Frierson: What is it like being back at Georgia with a different coaching staff and a different role?
Mann: To be honest, it still seems kind of surreal, coming back to where it started. I’ve always had it in my mind to try and get back to Georgia in my coaching career, and it’s a blessing come true. I’m super excited to be back and ready to get this thing rolling again.
Frierson: When you were playing here, were you already thinking about coaching?
Mann: No, not at all [laughs]. Of course, like many young athletes, you think NBA. I had my opportunities and I have been able to play overseas in Europe as a professional; I made some money, traveled the world, and basketball has done a lot for me, but after playing overseas, I wanted to start a new chapter.
Jonas Hayes is a good mentor of mine and he molded my mindset of wanting to get into coaching. I just went for it, and it brought me here.
Frierson: What did Jonas say that got you thinking that this was what you wanted to do?
Mann: When I was playing here, he always said that: “You’ll make a good coach someday.” And I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” I feel like I was a pretty good player; I won a lot in college, I’ve won as a pro, and I have a lot to give back.
Growing up, I had older guys give me tips, give me objectives and stuff to work on my game. That’s really what helped me progress and get better, and I feel like I have a lot to give back.
Frierson: What was your overseas and international experience like? Did you enjoy it?
Mann: Yeah, but it’s hard. A lot of guys, a lot of people think it’s easy, but it’s hard to be away from your family, it’s hard to not know anybody in the country, it’s hard to live in the country where you don’t speak the language. It’s tough, so you have to go over there with a great mindset and just know that it’s a business.
It has done me well. I traveled — I’m not a big traveler but I traveled, saw a lot of places that the average person doesn’t get to see. I made money and I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it a lot. But it’s hard on you mentally and you’ve got to be mentally strong to survive over there.
Frierson: You spent last season at Army which I’m guessing is a very different basketball experience from the one you had here at Georgia.
Mann: For sure. Unique is the word. Coach Jimmy Allen, I’m forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me to start my career there. Great folks. It’s a military institution, which is completely different from what I know, what I’ve seen and what I went through. It’s Army, school, basketball, in that order, and those cadets over there, amazing cadets, amazing people, and they taught me a lot. They made me a lot more appreciative for what I have and I went through in life — just all of the blessings that God has blessed me with.
Frierson: Working at your alma mater, how meaningful will it be to get Georgia to where you, Coach White and everyone else wants to get this program? Having done so much as a player here, to add to that seems like it would be pretty special.
Mann: Most definitely. It would mean the world to me. I graduated from here, my dream school, and having that G on my chest is big. It’s possible — I’ve done it as a player. We got it to a place in which we won a lot and there were high expectations, and we delivered.
I think if we’re able to push through that threshold and go even farther, it would mean the world to me. It’s possible, you’ve just got to have the right kids, the right student-athletes on the team, and you’ve got to have the right coaching staff. I think Coach White and the staff that we have this year is maybe the best staff that Georgia basketball has ever brought in.
I’m super excited for this year. I think Coach White and this staff, this team, we’re going to get it going and get back to where we should be — and then go farther.
(This Q&A was lightly edited for length and clarity.)
Assistant Sports Communications Director John Frierson is the staff writer for the UGA Athletic Association and curator of the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work by him at: Frierson Files. He’s also on Twitter: @FriersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.