STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) — Former UConn men’s basketball coach Dee Rowe passed away Sunday.
In a tweet by the Huskies, they called Rowe an “iconic Athletics and Institutional Ambassador for the past 53 years.”
In March of 1969, Rowe was named head coach of the men’s basketball team at UConn and directed the program for the next eight years.
“To be called ‘coach’ is the greatest praise I could ever receive,” said Rowe. “My world is about the game of basketball…it’s about people, it’s about friendships, it’s about life-long bonds and relationships.”
UConn said of Rowe, “After concluding his head coaching tenure at UConn, Rowe launched the fund-raising arm for UConn Athletics, and for the next 13 years [1978-91] he became a national leader as a collegiate athletics fundraiser. He generated millions of dollars in donor giving for UConn and he personally directed the effort to raise more than $7-million in private donations to support the building of the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion/Sports Center Complex, which opened in 1990.”
Since his official UConn “retirement” at the end of 1991, Rowe remained actively involved at the school in his emeritus role as Special Adviser for Athletics.
In December of 2016, Rowe was listed by the Basketball Hall of Fame as a nominee in the contributor category for consideration as an inductee to the Hall of Fame.
In 2017, Rowe was named the recipient of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award—the highest and most prestigious award presented by the Hall of Fame outside of Enshrinement.
UConn’s Director of Athletics David Benedict said of Rowe’s passing that it “is a very sad day” and that Rowe “meant so much to me and our Football program…even though he was a basketball coach.”
Coach Rowe meant so much to me and our Football program since I arrived in 1999. Even though he was a Basketball Coach, he always talked with me about his days playing TE growing up.
Coach Rowe would come by my office every Friday or call if he couldn’t make it in person, to say good luck to me and the coaches for our Saturday game. He always had just the right words for every moment. Being a first time Head Coach and having someone like Coach Rowe to talk with and tap his wealth of knowledge about coaching and dealing with people was invaluable to me. Without him, I don’t know if I would have been able to make it through those years. He was always in support of you whether you Won, Lost, or Tied.
He was an administrator who coached and understood the highs and lows of coaching and knew what you were going through and always had the right advice for me. I’ll always be thankful for my relationship with Coach Rowe and I will never forget what he did for me and my family here at UConn. He was and still is THE BEST and he can never be replaced.
Thanks for making a difference in my life as well as many others. Love you, and may you forever Rest In Peace.”
UConn Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jim Calhoun (1986-2012) said of Rowe, “There are certain rare people who enter our lives and make us feel better after every encounter—that’s Dee Rowe.”
UConn Women’s Basketball Head Coach Gino Auriemma said of Rowe’s passing, “It’s just such a cruel twist of fate that Dee should pass in these times. I really don’t think Rentschler Field would be big enough to host an event for Dee because people would be arriving from around the world not just Connecticut, or New England, or the United States.”
Rep. John B. Larson (CT-01) released the following statement on the passing of former UConn Basketball Coach Dee Rowe:
Dee Rowe was not only a great basketball coach but a great ambassador for the University of Connecticut. He was a true class act.
I’m proud that East Hartford can claim three UConn Men’s Basketball Team Captains under Dee Rowe: Ron Hrubala, Doug Melody, and Joe Whelton.
Rowe spent a lot of time in East Hartford recruiting them. He was a people person with a contagious personality and always a great leader.
I’m honored to have known him and be in the pleasure of his company. He and his late wife Ginny were an example of quintessential grace and dignity. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Rowe passed away early Sunday in Storrs. He was 91.