UConn's Dee Rowe, a Gold Key recipient, has passed away at the age of 91
Donald E. (Dee) Rowe, the former men’s basketball coach at UConn, died on Sunday, January 10, 2021 at his home in Storrs at the age of 91, surrounded by his family.
Rowe, who was honored with a Gold Key from the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance in 1978, was coach of the Huskies for eight years, winning 120 games and being named New England Coach of the Year twice (1970, 1976). He led UConn to the NIT twice (1974, 1975) and to the NCAA Tournament (1976) when the Huskies advanced to the Sweet 16.
Rowe was more well known as UConn’s iconic athletics ambassador for the past 53 years. In 1979, Rowe was a key "behind the scenes" influence as his close personal relationship with Big East Conference founder Dave Gavitt helped pave the way for UConn to be invited as a charter member into the newly formed collegiate league.
In 1980, he was named an assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, a team that never competed in the Moscow Olympics due to a boycott for the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
For the past 30 years, since his official UConn "retirement" in 1991, Rowe remained actively involved at the school in his emeritus role as Special Adviser for Athletics and UConn's Athletics Ambassador. In 2017, Rowe received his greatest recognition, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award
His obituary shared Rowe’s passion for life. “He believed each day was a gift. He had a big personality and a bigger heart that drew people in wherever he went. His deep friendships knew no bounds. He was a master storyteller and had a sense of humor that was infectious. He reached out to people and inspired them to chase their dreams and become their best selves,” the obituary said.
“He was genuinely interested in all people as he asked questions, listened with an open mind and heart, and offered a hand to help. He'd often engage a stranger, introduce himself, and ask about their life. Inevitably he'd discover someone in common, and soon he'd have a new friend. His love for people was uncanny as he found joy sharing the world with others. He was a visionary in his faith in humanity and encouraged people to accomplish things they might never have achieved. Dee spent his life in service, offering his support, wisdom, humor, and love.”
Photo courtesy UConn Athletics