Dennis Wolff

Year: 1975 - 1978
Position: Guard
Hometown: New York City, NY

Dennis Wolff was a Guard for the UConn Huskies from 1975 – 1978. He is currently in his 11th season as Head Basketball Coach at Boston University. I had the opportunity to talk to Dennis in August 2004 about his experiences playing and coaching basketball.

Dennis grew up in Queens, New York during a time when everyone was playing basketball, and he naturally gravitated to it. He wasn’t a great athlete; he had to work hard daily on his game, and became a very good high school player at Holy Cross High School in Queens. “My memories there were more of the players, and the coaches then of any significant games.” The team had what would later be eight Division I players on the team his junior year, and six Division I players his senior year. They were very competitive teams, and lost in the state semi-finals twice while Dennis was there.

Dennis went on college recruiting visits to UConn, Louisiana, Iowa, Fairfield and Davidson Universities, and for the wrong reasons, chose Louisiana State University (LSU). After two years at LSU he decided he would be better suited in the northeast, and began contacting a number of schools with hopes of being able to transfer to UConn. UConn’s head basketball coach at the time, Dee Rowe had been a friend of Dennis’ high school coach, and spoke at their summer basketball camps, so Dennis knew Coach Rowe. “Coach Rowe was good enough to offer me a scholarship to bring me back, and I had three of the best years of my life at UConn.”

Dennis said that his role as a player changed from high school to UConn. In high school he was a guy scoring a lot of points. In college he became more of a defender, and scored when the opportunity presented itself. Some memorable moments while at UConn were the night the Hartford Civic Center roof fell in, after a game against Umass— a night the team clearly remembers, and talks about as they’ve remained friends over the years. The year Dennis sat out (a transfer student must wait a year before being eligible to play), the team had a fabulous season going to the Sweet Sixteen in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament, and winning the New England Championship. During his junior year they had a good season with the potential to be a lot better. Their record included 18 wins and 10 losses, with four or five of the losses only by a couple of points. Dennis’s senior year was a rebuilding year with a new head coach Dom Perno, several players had injuries, and it was a tough year. Dennis also has fond memories of playing at the old Field House. “Although Gampel Pavilion is beautiful, there was something about playing in the old Field House that was very attractive to the players. It was a much energized atmosphere.”

Dennis graduated from UConn with a Bachelors Degree in Business, and with the help of Coach Rowe, immediately began his coaching career. He started at Trinity College in Hartford, CT as an assistant coach for two years. At the age of 25, Dennis became the head coach at Connecticut College for two years. Then he moved on to St. Bonaventure as an assistant to the head coach, Jim O’Brien (former UConn assistant coach), for three years with a lot of success. Next was Wake Forest University for Dennis where he was an assistant to Head Coach Bob Staak (former UConn basketball player), for four years. Southern Methodist College in Texas was where Dennis went after Wake Forest for one year as an assistant, and then he moved to the University of Virginia as an assistant coach, and had four very good years, going to the NCAA Tournament three years, and winning the National Invitational Tournament the other year. “I was to the point where I was hopeful to be able to get a chance to be a head coach in Division I, and then the job opened up at Boston University, and I interviewed for it, and with the help of a lot of people including Dee Rowe, Jim O’Brien, and Bob Staak, was able to get the job.” Dennis has been at BU for 10 years, and they’ve been great years.

When asked about how UConn has changed over the years, Dennis said that having watched the evolution in the basketball program, there has always been a rich history of basketball tradition at UConn with people following the program, and since Coach Jim Calhoun took over it’s exploded into a national type of school. “It went from being a regional school with a tremendous following, a lot of respect in the New England area, to where they won two national championships, and they recruit kids from all over the country.”

Regarding coaching styles from when Dennis was at UConn to now he said that every coach has their own style. He always enjoyed playing for both Coach Rowe, and Coach Perno whose styles were similar, and Coach Calhoun has his own style which is obviously extremely successful.

Dennis thought this current UConn team could win the national championship this year, but said he’s done his job long enough to know that you can play a bad game on any particular night, and it can end abruptly. “I thought they had the best talent, and they were playing well at the right time, and that enabled them to win the whole thing.” For the upcoming season, UConn might have a little less experience on their roster, but will still have a team that will be a factor in the Big East and nationally.

In his 10 years as Head Coach at Boston University Dennis’s team has finished first in its league five times, it’s been to the NCAA twice, and to the NIT twice. This past year the team had its best regular season in the schools history finishing with 23 wins and 4 losses, however were upset in the first round of the conference tournament. “That was a major disappointment for us, but we have to bounce back, and we have a pretty good nucleus, and I think we’ll have another pretty good year this coming year.”

Dennis has been married to his wife, JoAnn, for 27 years. They grew up in the same area of New York, and went to grammar school together. They have three children, Nicole, 20, Matt, 19, and Michael, 16. Nicole is in her junior year at UConn, and plays for the UConn women’s basketball team. She is just about recovered from her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury, and looking forward to playing this coming year. Matt will be a freshman at BU this year, and will be coached by his father on the basketball team. Matt had opportunities to go to other universities to play basketball, but was familiar with the program at BU, and chose BU. Michael is currently a student at Walpole High School in MA. The family’s undersized dog is Muggsy named after Muggsy Bogues, a player Dennis coached at Wake Forest, an amazing 5’3” point guard.

Dennis’s thoughts on how having gone to UConn contributed to his life are that he hopes any student choosing a college would end their career at whatever school, feeling as good about their experiences as he does about the time he spent at UConn.