Nov. 15, 2009

By DAN HICKLING
Special to NCAA.com

 
EASTON, Mass. -- Jan Hutchinson has never been the sort of coach to let sentiment to get in the way.
 
Not when there is a drill to be run in practice.

Not when there is a game to be won.

And certainly not when there is an NCAA Division II field hockey championship at stake.

It has always been that way. For 32 years, 685 games, and the first dozen national titles for her Bloomsburg teams.

Business first, feelings second.

But even Hutchinson, who had let out word that she would be retiring after this season, had to allow for some emotional pause as she put the Huskies through their warm-up paces prior to winning Sunday's title game, 3-2, against UMass-Lowell at Stonehill College.

Somewhere along the line, while her players went through their usual pre-game routine, Hutchinson was blindsided by a most unusual feeling.

"I did have a moment," she admitted. "So I walked to the other end of the field."

Hutchinson said that while she was going about her business as she always did before every game, R. Kelly's "The Champ is Here" began running through the W.B. Mason Stadium loudspeakers.

"It was like, 'wow'," Hutchinson said. "I lost it. So that's why I walked up and talked to (Lowell coach) Shannon (Hlebichuk). Then after that, it was okay."

Hutchinson, who also coaches the Huskies softball team, has carved out an imposing list of accomplishments during her three decades at Bloomsburg.
 
Among them is a coaching tree made up of former Bloomsburg players, of which Hlebichuk, who starred at Lowell under Hutchinson disciple Kathy Frick, is an offshoot. Hlebichuk is also the only coach in the last eight years to have beaten Hutchinson's Huskies with a national title on the line.

And although Hutchinson has paid her back in the big game three times over, Hlebichuk said her regard for her mentor and nemesis knows no bounds. And not necessarily because of all those triumphs.

"When we beat her in 2005," said Hlebichuk, "the hug and respect she showed me after that game as a young coach has forever sat with me. We've forged a relationship over the past eight years. One of respect. I think she knows that. And she knows that I appreciate everything she's done for the sport.

"I know there's a lot of 'Bloom-haters' out there, (people) that just don't want them to win another championship. But she's built a dynasty, and her kids work year in and year out to win that national championship for her. I can't imagine after 32 years. I'm tired after eight years, how does she go after 32?"

Which begs the question, why stop now?

The truth is, if it weren't for all the rigmarole that goes with the job, maybe she'd stay.

"I still love coaching," Hutchinson said. "If it was just a matter of being out on the field every day, with them, and with the softball team, I wouldn't leave. But there is so much more to coaching than that today. And with two programs, the recruiting, the fund raising -- we raise all of our own scholarship money -- that's a huge responsibility. So I thought, maybe I should back away for a while."

For a while, but not forever?

Hutchinson did leave the door open just a crack for a return to the sidelines.

But only on her terms.

"If it's (someone) that I know who is the new head coach," she said, "and they would have me back as a volunteer assistant down the line, that would be the perfect role for me. Not to have to be in the office, on the phone, and out scouting. I could be just doing the part that I love."