Former UConn men’s basketball coach dead at 91

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Donald E. (Dee) Rowe, former head coach of men’s basketball at the University of Connecticut and UConn’s Athletics and Institutional Ambassador for 53 years, passed away at age 91 in his home on Sunday Jan. 10 2021.

His son, Donald II, revealed the cause was COVID-19 and that he had also received a diagnosis of Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma according to an article written in the New York Times. 

“He may not have been a household name like those two, but throughout his 53 years at UConn, Coach Rowe proved time and time again that he deserved to stand right there alongside them.”

Rowe spent most of his eight-decade long professional career at UConn, during which he built upon an impressive resume of individual honors. 

Perhaps his greatest came in 2017, when he received the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s John W. Bunn Lifetime achievement award – the highest and most prestigious award presented by the basketball Hall of Fame outside enshrinement. Previous recipients of this award include Boston Celtics’ greats Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy. 

He may not have been a household name like those two, but throughout his 53 years at UConn, Coach Rowe proved time and time again that he deserved to stand right there alongside them.  

His tenure at UConn began in March of 1969, when he was named head coach of men’s basketball. He headed the program for the next eight years, winning 120 games and leading the team to a pair of National Invitational Title berths in 1974 and 1975. 

During this time, he was named New England coach of the year twice, in 1970 and 1976. 

Within a year of concluding his head coaching tenure in 1977, he took over fundraising operations for UConn Athletics. For the next 13 years he became a national leader as a collegiate athletics fundraiser.  

Rowe raked in millions of dollars in donor giving for UConn, breathing new life into the program. His fundraising prowess is quite visible on UConn’s campus, considering he personally directed the effort to raise $7 million in private donations to support the building of the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion/Sports Center Complex, which opened in 1990. 

In the past 30 years, since his official UConn “retirement” at the end of 1991, Rowe remained actively involved at the school in his emeritus role of Special Adviser for Athletics. 

And while Rowe is now gone, the iconic Gampel Pavilion now stands as a permanent reminder of Coach Rowe’s legacy to the game of basketball and his dedication to the success of UConn’s athletic program. 

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