Don DeVoe, men's basketball coach at the Naval Academy for the past 12 seasons, announced yesterday that he will retire at the end of the season.
After informing his players, DeVoe, 62, said in a prepared statement: "With the dynamics of the situation, I felt like it was the best time for myself, my family and the Navy basketball team to retire. I've never quit on any team in my life, and I'm not quitting on this team as I will remain head coach the rest of this season.
"But I felt like it was important to announce it now so everyone can move forward."
That would include the academy, which will launch a nationwide search for a replacement.
"I think he feels it's time to step back and bring in some new leadership," said Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk. "We'll see if we can solicit some interest in this position and hopefully, have it done in the next four to six weeks. The sooner we can resolve the uncertainty, the better it is."
Players, who were off from practice yesterday, were surprised when DeVoe told them.
"It was kind of hard," said senior Jeff Charles (Meade). "Everybody was kind of shocked. ... I couldn't believe it."
Said sophomore Matt Fannin: "I was pretty surprised this morning, especially since it came after a game in which we played pretty well [a 65-50 loss to league-leading Lafayette in which Navy contended for 30 minutes]."
Players described DeVoe as a hard-nosed coach who strongly stresses defense, rebounding and the fundamentals.
"It's been a lot of fun playing for him," Charles said. "He gave me the opportunity to play D-I ball. Even in the past three seasons when we haven't done as well as usual, you can tell he still loves the sport. But no doubt he takes the losing hard. You can see it in his face, the frustration."
Fannin said he noticed that the travel was becoming tiring for DeVoe.
"He mentioned on our last road trip to Holy Cross and Colgate that it was tough on him. It was wearing on him a little bit," Fannin said.
Fannin would not try to speculate on what might happen with his new coach.
"We'll all try to make the best of it," he said. "Right now, in a way, we'd really like to see Coach DeVoe go out on top. Who knows what will happen in the [league] tournament? Three wins and you're in."
The Midshipmen enjoyed solid success under DeVoe until recently. From 1993-94 through 2000-01, they won at least 15 games annually, played in three NCAA Division I tournaments and captured or shared five Patriot League regular-season championships.
He has been named the league's coach of the year three times.
Overall, DeVoe - one of only 14 active coaches to take three different schools to the NCAAs (he also took Virginia Tech and Tennessee) - has 510 career victories, 57th all time. His record at Navy is 182-155.
But the program has declined in recent seasons, falling to near the bottom of the league. The Midshipmen are 3-17 overall and 0-7 in league games after going 10-20 and 8-20 overall in the past two seasons.
Gladchuk called DeVoe "the salt of the earth" and said a retirement ceremony and/or banquet will be scheduled "to celebrate his career here." The athletic director said he hoped DeVoe would continue to be associated with the program in some capacity.
The grind of the travel and receding fortunes played a part in the decision of a man who also coached at Wyoming for two seasons and Florida for one. His 1972-73 Virginia Tech squad won the National Invitation Tournament title.
After playing for Ohio State for three years, including a spot on an NCAA tournament runner-up, DeVoe launched his coaching career at Army as an assistant under Bob Knight in 1964.
"We're grateful for the incredible career he's had," said Gladchuk. "Coach DeVoe's respected and supportive commitment to the midshipmen has served as a great example for many of our coaches and staff to follow."