It's safe to say that Dave Boots' retirement caught pretty much everybody, from the administration to the players, off guard.
Boots, who had compiled a record of 503-235 in 25 seasons with the Coyotes, quietly broke the news to athletic director David Herbster Tuesday morning. He informed the team of his decision following an afternoon workout.
"We had just finished lifting and coach Boots told us that he wanted to meet with us," junior guard Brandon Bos explained. "He was joking around initially. All of the sudden you could see in his face that his mood completely changed. He said, 'It’s going to be really hard for me to tell you guys this,' and he started getting emotional. He was pacing back and forth. We didn’t know what exactly it was going to be. He just said, 'I’m retiring,' and he started to break down."
"Everybody had the same look on their face. Mouth wide open," added senior center Trevor Gruis.
"He told us it was going to be hard to walk away from the game, but the hardest part would be walking away from us."
Both players said that Boots never got specific about the reasons behind his decision. And while both admit it will be difficult to watch their coach away, they say this isn't really about them.
"I completely respect the fact that it's a personal decision," Bos said. "I'm glad he's doing what's best for him."
The timing of Boots' announcement leaves the program in a bit of a pinch. Players are scheduled to begin individual workouts on Wednesday, with official practices scheduled to begin in late September.
Assistant coaches Joey James, Chris Kassin and Lloyd Williams, along with director of basketball operations Eric Johnson, will handle the program's day-to-day operations for the time being, while athletic director David Herbster considers his next move.
"To borrow a quote from John Wooden, it's important to 'be quick, but don't hurry,' Herbster said. "We are looking at all of our options and trying to evaluate each one."
Those options include naming an interim head coach, which Herbster is declining to do at this time.