The timing might have been a surprise, but Ray Giacoletti's resignation as Utah basketball coach Friday afternoon was expected by most who watched the Ute program experience back-to-back losing seasons with declining attendance and booster support.
The 44-year-old Giacoletti is out as Ute coach less than three years after being hired to replace Rick Majerus, who abruptly resigned before the end of the 2004 season.
Although Giacoletti and athletic director Chris Hill both claimed it was Giacoletti's idea to quit, there's no question there was dissatisfaction with his job performance by those above him as well as from Ute boosters and fans. The paid home attendance dipped to a 31-year low of 9,522 and the actual attendance was perhaps half that.
Like everything else he's done since coming to Utah, Giacoletti was all class as he talked about the decision with a throng of media in the Ute team room at the Huntsman Center.
There wasn't an ounce of bitterness in his voice, although he expressed disappointment in not getting the job done after working tirelessly for three years.
"I want to thank Dr. Hill for giving us this opportunity three years ago," Giacoletti said in front of several reporters and cameras. "I know my staff and I have given countless hours to try to help continue the tradition and success of Utah basketball. For whatever reason, we weren't able to make the necessary strides this past year."
Hill had nice things to say about his coach, but said "obviously things weren't going well" for Giacoletti, whose team is 11-17 this year after going 14-15 last year. In his first year, Giacoletti had led the Utes to a 29-6 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16, but in the modern world of college athletics, that's a distant memory.
"I'm not pointing any fingers at anybody," Giacoletti said. "I understand where we're at. I'm a big boy and I had a job to do and we fell short. I'm ultimately responsible and I'm the bottom line."
As for why he made the announcement Friday, the day before today's final regular-season game against BYU and before next week's NCAA Tournament, Giacoletti said, "The timing's never right I wanted to do what's best for this program and for this university. I'm a team player."
Both Hill and Giacoletti did their best to promote the idea that it was all Giacoletti's decision to resign, but the hesitation in some of their answers suggested otherwise.
When asked flat-out if he was pressured to resign, Giacoletti said, "I'm not going to get into that ... no ... we've met and this is where we're at. I'm not going to get into all the details. Dr. Hill has been great to deal with for three years here and I won't forget that. At the end of the day, I made the decision."
Later, in a one-on-one interview, Giacoletti said the decision wasn't a long time coming. He said the first time he met with Hill to discuss his future was just two days earlier, on Wednesday.
Again, he didn't want to blame anyone, saying, "I didn't make enough strides in our third year to continue where we're going. The bottom line in this business, it's about winning."
Said Hill: "It's hard for me to say why Ray decided to do that. Obviously things weren't working out the way they should. We were going to evaluate everything at the end of the year and see what we want to do with the program, but this was before I could do that."
Giacoletti had been frustrated all season with his team's inability to play defense and he mentioned that again Friday.
"I wish we could have played better defensively this year," he said. "But I didn't do a good enough job. It's something that if I could have fixed along the way I would have. I just didn't get it done."
Giacoletti was given a seven-year contract when he was hired three years ago, and Hill said the contract would be honored even though he wasn't officially fired. Giacoletti will receive $175,000 for the next four years, regardless if he gets another job.
"I felt that was the fair thing to do for Ray," Hill said. "That's part of college athletics and it's something we don't take lightly at all. We'll work hard at generating funds."
Giacoletti said his players were "confused" when he met with his team earlier in the day and that it was "the last thing they expected today."
He said he hopes the team will keep playing hard and said he will coach hard until the end of the season.
"I told them there's no one person any bigger than the team," he said.
As for his future, Giacoletti said after the season he'll "take my wife and disappear for a couple of weeks." Beyond that, he said he'd like to stay in the coaching profession.
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