On his last day as coach of the University of Utah basketball team – and his first day of unemployment — Jim Boylen stood in his office as a small group of reporters entered.
“Hey, how you doin’, man?” he said to one. “Good to see you, brother.”
To the group he said, “All right, sit down or whatever. There’s a seat over there for somebody, if you want it.”
To a cameraman who had previously had some mobility issues, Boylen said, “How’s that hip doing?”
Boylen didn’t look like a guy who had just lost his job, last Saturday afternoon.
As a TV technician started putting the microphone on Boylen’s shirt, the coach said, “Should I go through the shirt, or can I just put it on the outside?”
The tech said it would look better underneath, so Boylen agreeably complied.
“How’s that cross country skiing going, brother?” he asked one reporter.
After everyone was settled, Boylen spoke into the portable microphone: “All right, can you hear me OK?”
What struck me through all of this was the basic goodness of a coach who had hours earlier lost his job. While it’s true the $2 million buyout made things easier, it’s still never fun to get fired. However, Boylen was as gracious as I’ve ever seen a coach who had been dismissed.
This isn’t always how the scenario goes. Jim Fassel called a press conference when he was fired, but it was to contest Utah’s decision, which he said was unethical. Ron McBride invited reporters to a locker room meeting with his team after he had been fired. Most of the time, dismissed coaches just take their phones off the hook.
Ex-BYU football coach Gary Crowton also handled his firing well, calling a press conference and answering all questions politely.
Asked about his feelings on being fired, Boylen began: “I’m really thankful to have been head coach here, disappointed in our release. I was really hoping for one more year with this group of guys.”
He continued: “My first concerns really are for our staff and players. I’ve loved it here, loved every minute of it, loved the competing, loved the building process. I think this place is better off than when I got here, off the court and on, and we’ve got a good group returning. I’m very thankful for this opportunity that President Young and Dr. Hill gave me.”
He added that the meeting with Hill on Saturday was “very respectful, we had a very good conversation. Again, it was handled with class, I think, on both side.”
Indeed it was.
For that alone, Boylen deserves respect for a final gesture well done.