George Blaney is calling it quits. The longtime UConn assistant coach and veteran college basketball head coach is retiring, UConn announced Thursday.
He’s spent the last 12 years with the Huskies, often filling in as interim/acting head coach for his friend and boss Jim Calhoun.
It was generally thought the now 73-year-old Blaney would leave the Huskies whenever Calhoun did, but Blaney actually made it one more year on the coaching staff than Calhoun did.
When Ricky Moore was promoted this spring to assistant coach and Blaney made a special advisor to now head coach Kevin Ollie, however, that was probably a sign that Blaney would soon be leaving.
“I always said I would know when it would be the right time to go,” Blaney said in a statement. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my years at UConn, but I think for me, this is the right time.
“Coaching with Jim has been so special for me. We have always been such great friends and that just made for a wonderful working relationship. His passion for the game, for the kids, and for UConn is what made him such a special coach.
“And I am just so excited about Kevin. I said right from the get-go that Kevin Ollie is a superstar coach and he certainly showed it last year. And I think this year’s team is going to be terrific.”
Blaney joined the UConn staff before the 2001-02 season after coaching stops at Stonehill, Dartmouth, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, and for 22 years as head coach at his alma mater, Holy Cross.
“Coach Blaney is just a great basketball coach … just the way he puts basketball and life in perspective,” Ollie said. “He’s been somebody I can confide in, no matter what the situation. Not only was Coach Blaney a great help to me last year through the transition to head coach, but he helped me when I was an assistant, helped me in my whole path to becoming a college coach. And of course, his decades of coaching experience have been invaluable to me on the bench.”
“I want to congratulate George on his retirement from UConn and thank him for all he has done for our program,” UConn AD Warde Manuel said. “During his time his time with us, George has been a big part of the success that our team has enjoyed in winning national and conference championships. George has not only been a special part of UConn basketball, but also to the game of college basketball itself. He is a gentleman of the game and the respect that he has among his peers is unmatched. All of us at UConn wish George, his wife Maryellen and the entire Blaney family much happiness in the future.”
During Blaney’s 12 years at UConn, the Huskies compiled a 298-112 overall record and he helped guide them to two National Championships, three trips to the Final Four, six Big East championships, and 10 NCAA appearances.
“I’ve known George for 40-plus years, and he is not only one of the best basketball coaches, but also one of the finest people, I’ve ever been around,” Calhoun said. “When he joined me at UConn, I think it was a great marriage of perhaps two very different personalities, but two people who were very similar in our feelings about the game of basketball and the kids who played for us.
“George had an awful lot to do with all that we were able to accomplish here and I will cherish the time we had working together. He will always be very special to me and I’m proud to call him my friend.”
Blaney helped coach numerous future NBA players while at UConn, including Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay, A.J.Price, Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien, Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, and Andre Drummond, as well as current UConn stars Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.
“We’ve enjoyed some great success at UConn, and throughout my career, I’ve had the chance to coach some great players here and everywhere I’ve coached,” Blaney said. “I’m very thankful that I was able to be a part of it.”
Blaney, a 2003 inductee into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, has an impressive lifetime coaching record of 461-383 in more than 30 years as a head coach, including 357 wins and eight postseason appearances as head coach at Holy Cross. During his distinguished career, he served as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches was a board member of the organization for 12 years.
Blaney also served as the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the International Basketball League before returning to coaching as an assistant at Rhode Island for the 2000-01 season. He then joined Calhoun at UConn the following season.
A native of Jersey City, N.J., Blaney was an All-New England selection as a player at Holy Cross, where he scored 1,012 points. After his 1961 graduation, he was drafted in the fourth round of the NBA Draft by the New York Knicks and played the 1961-62 season with the team.
Blaney and wife Maryellen are parents to daughters Annmarie and Tricia and sons Terry, Kevin, and Brian, who is currently an assistant men’s basketball coach at Providence College. They also have seven grandchildren.
Ollie said he is keeping Blaney’s phone number close at hand.
“Of course, we will miss Coach Blaney tremendously, both on the bench and in our staff meetings,” Ollie said, “but I know he’ll always be there if I need him for advice. He might be teeing it up on Cape Cod, but he’ll be there for me.”