When former Boston University star and Olympic champion Mike Eruzione saw that Terriers coach Jack Parker was calling him on Sunday, he said he had a strong inkling as to why.
He found out what will be announced formally Monday at a 3 p.m. news conference at Agganis Arena — that Parker is stepping down as head hockey coach when this season, his 40th on the job, is over.
Perhaps not coincidentally, March 11 is also Parker’s 68th birthday.
Eruzione said 40 is a nice round number.
“Good for him,’’ he said. “I have talked to Jack over the years about this and we spent some time together last summer. At some point, it was going to stop. My thought was, ‘Is it going to be 40 years [of coaching] or 70 years of age?’ What was going to be the magic number. It’s time to move on. He loves to sail so he’s sailing into the sunset. It’s a great day for Jack Parker. It’s a sad day for BU because we are losing not only our coach but our friend and our father. He means so much to players that people don’t even have a clue about. Ask Travis Roy what Jack Parker means to him.’’
Eruzione said Parker is equal parts a great coach, father figure, mentor, disciplinarian, teacher, and friend.
“I have always told people if something bad ever happened to me in my life, the first person I would call is Jack,’’ said Eruzione. “It’s a good thing for Jack that he is now moving on and he’s going to do some things he didn’t do before.’’
The veteran bench boss will be leaving a long legacy of success — 894 career wins (the most by a coach at a single school), which is third-most in Division 1 history behind Boston College coach Jerry York and former Michigan State coach Ron Mason.
Parker has led the Terriers to seven Hockey East titles and a record 21 Beanpot Tournament crowns.
BU’s season continues this weekend with the Hockey East quarterfinals. The Terriers, the No. 3 seed, host No. 6 Merrimack College in a best-of-three series beginning Friday night.
The team finished the regular season with a record of 18-15-2.
Parker led BU to three national championships, the latest in 2009.
Last year, the program came under scrutiny when two players were accused of sexual assault in separate incidents that occurred fewer than three months apart.
The school formed a task force and commissioned a report to look into the hockey program. The conclusions of the report were that the players were given star treatment and that there was “a culture of sexual entitlement.’’
The school revoked Parker’s title as executive athletic director but didn’t conclude the coach knew of anything inappropriate going on with his players.
Eruzione said Parker always has held his players accountable.
“My feeling is shame on people who think Jack Parker’s 40-year career is based on two incidents,’’ said Eruzione. “If anyone is looking at two incidents that reflect on 40 years of coaching, that is someone who doesn’t have a clue as to who Jack Parker is and what he’s about. People don’t know what Jack has meant to players. I don’t think Jack is leaving for that reason. He is leaving because 40 years is 40 years.
“Look at his graduation rate. It’s 95-point-something percent and the reason it’s not 100 is because guys have turned pro. If someone has stepped out of line, he’s thrown them off the team. A bunch of players have been told to leave and go somewhere else. He hasn’t lost touch with kids. He hasn’t lost touch with disciplining his players. I have worked there now 20 years. There is nobody more cherished and loved at the school than Jack.’’
Eruzione said Parker will turn his attention to other pursuits.
“I think he’s had enough. I think it’s simple, 40 years is enough,’’ said Eruzione. “He has grandkids who play hockey. He’s looking at what he’s done as a coach, what he’s done with his players, what he has experienced, his wins and losses. In his mind, it’s time to turn the page. Forty years at one university?”
Eruzione said he owes Parker a debt of gratitude for believing in him when some others didn’t. The rest, as they say, is history.
“If it wasn’t for Jack Parker, I would not be where I am today,’’ said Eruzione. “He recruited me, I was going to a Division 2 school and he gave me the opportunity to go to BU. And if I had never gone to BU, I would never have been on the Olympic team and my life wouldn’t be where it is today.”
Eruzione said Parker is not going to disappear from view either, staying involved at BU.
“We just announced a million-dollar fund-raising campaign and Jack is going to be an integral part of that,’’ said Eruzione. “He’s not going away. You can’t sail in the winter time.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.