In a letter sent directly to University of Hartford President Gregory Woodward today, November 7th, 2022, John Gallagher, the head coach for the University of Hartford Men’s basketball team, announced his resignation from the team, effective immediately.
In a copy of the resignation letter, obtained by STN2 from Senior Writer for CBS Sports Matt Norlander via his Twitter page (@MattNorlander), Gallagher outlines the reasonings for his decision. His tweet, which contains images of Gallagher’s letter, is linked here.
Since the University’s decision to move its athletics program from the Division I level to the Division III level, several impactful changes have been inflicted on the men’s basketball program. As Gallagher describes, within just the past two years, the men’s basketball team has watched countless talented athletes transfer to other schools. Although this has not only been a problem persistent within the confines of the men’s basketball team- as almost every team on campus has seen a plethora of dedicated, devoted Hawk athletes leave their nest and travel to other parts of the country- the effect it has left on the men’s basketball team is increasingly palpable.
In 2008, John Gallagher worked at the University of Hartford as an associate head coach under Dan Leibovitz. In that same season, the Hawks reached the America East Championship for the first time in school history.
Two years later, after a brief stint at Boston College working as an assistant coach, Gallagher was offered the head coaching position in 2010, never looking back. That is until today.
His impact was immediately felt. In his first season as head coach, Gallagher guided Hartford to a modest 11-20 record. Despite the seemingly lackluster record, the Hawks would go on to upset the third-seeded Maine Bears in the America East Tournament. By the 2012-13 season just two years later, Gallagher would lead the Hawks to an impressive 17-12 record before earning a bid to compete in the 2013 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, which was the school’s first postseason appearance since their move to Division I in 1984.
Then, in 2021, the unthinkable happened. The fourth-seeded Hartford Hawks would dominate the America East tournament, handling Binghamton, UAlbany, Vermont, and UMass Lowell to capture the first America East Championship in the school’s history while subsequently appearing in the NCAA March Madness Tournament before losing to the eventual national champion Baylor Bears.
During his 12-year tenure with the University of Hartford, Gallagher had an overall record of 169-207, including a 96-96 in-conference record and 6 winning seasons.
Numbers don’t lie, but they can mislead. Gallagher’s success with the University of Hartford is unquestionable and unprecedented. Although his .449 winning percentage may not jump off the page, Gallagher helped reignite the basketball program and invoke change. Prior to Gallagher’s time as head coach, the University of Hartford, during its time in Division I, saw 7 winning seasons during a 26-season stretch that included 4 different head coaches. In less than half the time, Gallagher nearly doubled that mark while simultaneously leading the Hawks to their first NCAA March Madness Tournament appearance in school history, where the University received national attention and funds from the NCAA. Essentially, Gallagher did not just make the men’s basketball team a winning program; he changed the culture for the better and brought sustained excellence to a position that lacked consistency and structure.
However, Gallagher will not be remembered most for his wins and losses or the America East title he brought to the Reich Family Pavilion in 2021. He will be remembered for the person he was and the leadership he brought to the cities of Hartford and West Hartford.
John Gallagher oozes enthusiasm and passion. He is the most animated person in the gym, both at games and practices. His energy is transferable, thus making athletes, coaches, and fans alike naturally gravitate to him. Even in front of a packed house full of the Hartford faithful and opposing fans, Gallagher can always be heard sending words of encouragement to his players. Despite no longer being an athlete himself, Gallagher is seemingly the most active and communicative person on the court, including the players. His thrashing arms, exuberant energy, and pronounced love for the game were infectious to all who watched him perform his craft.
Off the court, Gallagher was a staple in the community, constantly taking time out of his day to talk to the student body and be an active member of The Neighborhood, a phrase he coined to describe the University of Hartford community. As someone who has been lucky enough to interview Gallagher and converse with him on multiple occasions, his care for the community was unequivocal. Who you were, as well as the time and place, did not matter to him; if you were a part of The Neighborhood, John Gallagher made time for you.
Thus, the news regarding the University’s inability to provide an athletic trainer, whose job is to help prevent injuries and provide aid for injured players, or meal plans for athletes while on road, as well as the administration’s breach of contract agreements, is disheartening. Not only did the administration, without the knowledge or guidance of the athletic program’s staff members, strikingly announce the University’s plans to move from Division I to Division III, but they also stripped scholarships away from the men’s basketball team and continuously undermined John Gallagher by willingly and knowingly putting his athletes at risk. Then, instead of choosing to help Gallagher when he begged for intervention, the administration continuously ignored his pleas, instead secluding him further and breaching the terms of his contract agreement.
Gallagher’s resignation comes just 1 day before Hartford kicks off their season at home against Sacred Heart University. Knowing Gallagher during his time with the team, this is almost certainly not the way he envisioned leaving the University of Hartford. The love he has for his athletes, coaches, team, and community is apparent, and thus, it is hard to believe he would leave the men’s basketball team in such a vulnerable position had it not been for unparalleled circumstances.
However, today does end the long, successful tenure of John Gallagher as head coach of the University of Hartford basketball team. If not remembered for his exceptional 2020-21 season that ended with the University’s first bid to college basketball’s most lucrative and luxurious tournament, he will forever be remembered in The Neighborhood as a passionate coach who gave 100% to his craft every single day, and with that, became one of the most beloved figures in the history of University of Hartford athletics.