Video by Michael Ewen, chief video editor
Coach Steve Fritz has been part of the St. Thomas basketball program for 44 years, beginning his career as a player and then spending 31 years as head coach. Fritz led the Tommies to the NCAA Division III championship title in the 2010-2011 season.
Fritz called his coaching career the “most exhilarating and fun thing anyone could do over three decades.”
He said he will miss the memories, but the 850-plus games he’s had with the Tommies have “been very rewarding.”
“No one can be luckier in life,” Fritz said about the support St. Thomas has given him. “No one could be blessed with greater players.”
He called this season a pinnacle year that was very special.
“I will always be proud of the things our kids have done on the court,” Fritz said.
But the most rewarding part of his experience was seeing his players grow into members of society.
“This is the greatest job in the world,” Fritz said.
Though Fritz said the decision was hard, the team knew this whole year that his retirement was in consideration.
Fritz will continue working as the athletic director. Assistant coach John Tauer will be the interim head coach for the 2011-2012 season.
With the addition of the new facilities and expanding programs, Fritz’s responsibilities as the athletic director have grown. He said this was a factor in his decision.
Fritz said he “look[s] forward to boosting the success” of the 22 athletic programs he will oversee as athletic director.
Mark Dienhart, executive vice president and chief operating officer, said, “Steve is one of those St. Thomas heroes. His place in St. Thomas history will be secure.”
The press conference was filled with family, media members, players, coaches and university administrators.
“You can’t replace him nor do you want to do that,” Tauer said. “He’s an icon and legend.”
Tauer said he hopes to continue Fritz’s legacy and take the Tommies back to conference and national play.
Deinhart announced that the university will name the basketball floor the “Steve Fritz Court” in honor of his success.
Fritz said he was “humbled and honored” by this recognition.
Keep checking back with TommieMedia this afternoon for more on this story.
Theresa Malloy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.