Chris Watts resigned as Notre Dame-Fairfield’s boys basketball coach on Wednesday after three seasons to take an assistant men’s position at Division II Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
“The professionalism, family atmosphere, the trust, the respect, and most of all the friends that I have made while at Notre Dame is above and beyond any institution. However, coaching at the college level is a dream that I feel I cannot pass up at this time in my life,” Watts said in a statement released by the school.
When reached later on Wednesday, Watts, 50 said he had been looking seriously for a college job since he retired in June from his full-time job as a state parole officer.
“I couldn’t do that (coach collegiately) during my 20 years while working as a parole officer,” Watts said. “I kept my ear to the ground, but nothing really popped up in Connecticut for me.”
Watts, a Cheshire resident, said he applied for the Fairfield University men’s head job that went to Jay Young. He said he did interview for assistant’s positions at both Brown and Eastern Connecticut State. He said he turned down an offer at Eastern because he chose Mercy College instead.
“I’m excited to get out there and give it a shot,” Watts said. “I’m going to learn a lot, especially on the recruiting side. It will be a challenge but I’m up for it.”
Watts went 65-13 during his three seasons piloting the Lancers’ program. That includes winning the 2017-18 CIAC Division I state championship, the first title for the program. Notre Dame finished No. 1 in the final Register/GameTimeCT boys basketball poll that season and Watts was the Register’s State Coach of the Year.
Notre Dame advanced to the Division I final in Watts’ first season (2016-17). Both years, the Lancers faced Sacred Heart in the final.
Watts previously coached four seasons at his alma mater, St. Joseph, where he was a schoolboy star in the mid-1980s before going on to play at Providence. He returned as an assistant at St. Joseph for nine seasons under Vito Montelli before taking over for him.
Watts spoke to his players individually on Tuesday night. ”There was a lot of emotion, but it needed to be done,” he said.
“ND Boys’ Basketball would not be in the position it is today without the leadership he provided these past years,” Notre Dame athletic director Rob Bleggi said in the release.
Bleggi said the vacant position will likely be posted next week.
“We’ve always talked about this (college) being a dream of his,” Bleggi said about Watts. “Jobs come up. The timing is what it is.”
Mercy resides in the East Coast Conference and went 8-18 last season under Michael Maczko.
“At the college level, you have to break some molds and build (the players) them back up. I’m up for it,” Watts said.