After 40 seasons as the Boston University men’s hockey coach, Jack Parker has decided it is time to sail off into the sunset.
The legendary coach, who has racked up 894 wins and three national championships, officially announced his retirement effective at the end of the season at an Agganis Arena news conference Monday afternoon, with BU Athletic Director Mike Lynch and BU President Robert Brown by his side.
“It has been a great run. I had a great time doing it,” Parker said. “I always talk about BU being a family. I’ve got two daughters and 226 sons and the team that I have here right now are my youngest sons. And I’m not going to have any more children.”
Many of those 226 sons were in attendance Monday afternoon, from members of the 2009 national championship team like John McCarthy and Colby Cohen to 1980 Olympic star Mike Eruzione to former-captain-turned-son-in-law Scott Lachance.
Eruzione, who only had one Division I program recruit him, was particularly reflective in terms of what Parker has meant to not only the men’s hockey program but the university as a whole over the last four decades.
“Just what he’s meant not only as a coach, but as a person and a friend,” Eruzione said. “You see all the former players here, from the old era to the new era, gives you indication of what he has meant to him in their lives. He’s a special man and a special person. I think we’re very fortunate that the university has him associated with us, not only hockey-wise, but the university itself.”
Parker said his contract has been extended through the 2017-18 academic year, but as a special assistant to Brown. His main role will to be to assist with BU’s fundraising campaign, which has an ultimate goal of $1 billion.
The retirement announcement, as well as however many postseason games the Terriers play the next few weeks, caps what is by all accounts a historic and nearly half-century tenure on Commonwealth Avenue.
Originally a Somerville native, Parker suited up for the Terriers for three seasons before graduating in 1968. He re-joined the team as an assistant coach a year later and took over as head coach six games into the 1973-74 season.
The numbers Parker has totaled, even outside the three national championships, are staggering.
Parker has guided Terrier teams to 11 regular-season conference titles (eight Hockey East, three ECAC), 11 conference tournament crowns (seven Hockey East, four ECAC) and 21 Beanpots.
He has also had 23 players who participated in the Olympics, including four who were on the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. men’s team, and has sent numerous players onto the NHL.
Parker’s legacy, though, is far more than just numbers. He is widely credited with making Boston University hockey what it is today as BU transformed from a commuter school to the research university it is now.
He was also crucial in spurring the creation of the women’s hockey team — coached by his former player and assistant coach Brian Durocher — a program that has already become a perennial contender on the national stage since its inception in 2005.
That legacy took a bit of a hit in the last 12 months. After two players were arrested in a three-month span for separate incidents of sexual assault, Brown commissioned a task force to look into the program. The task force said in September there was a “culture of sexual entitlement” within the program, but did not conclude Parker was aware of such activity.
The bench boss said he was considering calling it a career after last season, but once the off-ice troubles started he decided to stick around for at least one more year.
“I had a couple of incidents that got all over the front pages. I decided I couldn’t do it then,” Parker said. “It was a pretty good deal because instead of being 39 years it has been 40 years at BU, which is a better number. I had a wonderful team this year to coach and we had fun. The adversity we faced — I’m glad I had that experience as well.”
Lynch, who came to BU in 2004 and called Parker “a mentor, a friend and a confidant,” deflected the idea that Parker could have been ousted after last season’s turmoil.
“He was able to design and make this decision on his own on his own time,” Lynch said. “That’s the thing that I’m happiest about.”
All that, and he’s not done quite yet.
The Terriers, ranked 18th in the country, won four of their last five regular-season games to claim home-ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals. With a push deep into the conference tournament, BU could find itself in the national tournament yet again.
“It just gives us another reason to do the best we can, try to win this weekend, try to take this thing, ride this thing for as long as we can, just knowing it’s his last run at it,” said senior captain Wade Megan. “We obviously want to give him our best effort and want to send him out on top.
“He’s always had kind of a way of motivating us,” Megan continued, breaking into a smile. “Whether this is another ploy or not, I’m not sure. One of the things that’s pretty remarkable about him is the passion he has for the game, so you can tell that he still has that fire and the competitiveness.”