Hartford coach John Gallagher resigns on opening day of college basketball’s season

Hartford men’s basketball coach John Gallagher resigned from his post Monday. Gallagher, who was set to enter his 13th season with the program and who coached Hartford to its one and only NCAA Tournament appearance in 2021, told CBS Sports he did this because he believed his players would be better off.

“At the end of the day, it’s better for the student-athlete experience if I stepped away,” Gallagher said. “They will be treated much better now than if I was there. That was the deciding factor. That’s the truth.”

Gallagher said he informed his team at 2 pm on Monday that he was leaving. His highest-ranking assistant is Tom Devitt, who has spent the past decade at the program. Hartford, which is transitioning out of Division I, is yet to name an interim coach.

In a resignation letter to Hartford president Greg Woodward, Gallagher alleges multiple breaches of contract.

“As I have communicated on multiple occasions, both directly and through my counsel, the University of Hartford has not only breached the material terms of my contract but has consistently and repeatedly styled the men’s basketball program to the point where player safety and well-being has been jeopardized,” Gallagher wrote.

Additionally Gallagher wrote — and the university later acknowledged — that the school did not assign a trainer to travel with the team for its recent scrimage against Dartmouth College. In that scrimmage, an undisclosed Hartford player suffered injury.

Gallagher forwarded his resignation letter to CBS Sports, which can be read in the tweet here.

Gallagher wished to speak publicly on many matters affecting Hartford’s men’s basketball program, but noted that he could have been fired for cause in doing so. He wrote, “The reality, however, is that the university has effectively already terminated my contract due to its repeated and ongoing failure to adhere to core commitments it made to me in the contract.”

Gallagher told CBS Sports that the injury incident at Dartmouth kept him up at night and that he “couldn’t function the next day.”

“I was trying to get through things and I should have — the student-athlete [who was injured], I was upset with myself that I allowed that there was no trainer on that bus. I was upset. For me, that was the final straw.”

In a statement obtained by ESPN, the University of Hartford refuted some of Gallagher’s claims.

“First and foremost, the safety of our students is our top priority,” the school said. “The University confirmed Dartmouth College would have an athletic trainer on site for our recent scrimage, who could assist both UHart and Dartmouth student-athletes. This is an institution with highly qualified medical staff and facilities. Additionally, other members of our staff have always had a University-sponsored credit card for planned meals and expenses. Mr. Gallagher’s resignation letter is full of inaccuracies. We are confident that these baseless claims and will be disproved through the legal process. announcing interim leadership for our men’s basketball program.”

Gallagher worked for more than a year behind the scenes to rally and reverse Woodward’s decision to demote the University of Hartford from the Division I ranks down to Division III. Those efforts failed. The school is in the midst of a multi-year conversion to D-III; it will play a Division I schedule this season but is now an independent, having left the America East conference earlier this year.

Gallagher told CBS Sports he’d been debating resigning for a month.

“I’m relieved,” he said. “There’s so many different things I didn’t write in the letter. I do want to add something that’s really important. Everyone’s going to talk about the deterioration of the last couple of years of the program. I want to take a moment and thank all my players over the past 12 years. At a level like Hartford, you do it for the relationships, you do it for ‘The Neighborhood.’ The former players that have reached out in the past three hours, four hours, it’s why you coach.

Hartford opens its season Tuesday night at home against Sacred Heart. Gallagher went 169-207 at UHart, including a 96-96 mark in America East play.

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