The Fighting Irish head coach is entering his 33rd season with Knoxville Catholic, achieves 600th win
By Dan McWilliams
Knoxville Catholic High School boys basketball head coach Michael Hutchens, who has led the Fighting Irish to their highest heights and just achieved his 600th career win, is retiring at the end of the 2021-22 season.
Mr. Hutchens will remain a faculty member and assistant athletic director at the school.
Mr. Hutchens announced, through the school, his decision to retire from coaching at KCHS on Oct. 28. He met with his players after school that same day to tell them of his decision.
This season will mark Mr. Hutchens’ 33rd with the Fighting Irish, having led the team since 1989. His 600th win came Nov. 23 at Cookeville as the Fighting Irish trounced the hosts 73-46. KCHS defeated Notre Dame 72-50 in Chattanooga on Nov. 26. Mr. Hutchens’ won-lost record is now 601-268.
“Forty years is a lot of anything, and this will be my 40th overall, 33 at Catholic as head coach, seven as an assistant in Knox County,” Mr. Hutchens said of his decision to retire. “I was an assistant for five years at Karns and two years at South-Young.”
Knoxville Catholic won its first-ever state boys basketball title in 2020 under Mr. Hutchens’ leadership and was a state semifinalist last season. The Fighting Irish finished as state runners-up in 2017, a tournament highlighted by a game-winning 3-pointer against Whites Creek in the semifinals, and also made the state tourney in 2004, 2005, and 2006.
“Obviously, winning the state championship in 2020 was unbelievable,” Mr. Hutchens said. “Then our 2017 team, when Luke Smith, our point guard, hit a 40-footer on the buzzer to put us in the state championship. Then all of our state-tournament teams—it’s just a lot of memories.”
That quest for a state title took many years.
“Well, you never know. We came close in 2017, and we had a couple other losses in the state tournament on the buzzer with teams I felt like had a chance,” Mr. Hutchens said. “It’s not something that’s easy to do.”
Mr. Hutchens’ numerous accolades in his coaching career include his being named conference coach of the year nine times, the 2002 Knoxville News Sentinel East Tennessee Class A coach of the year, the 2017 PrepXtra Knoxville Interscholastic League coach of the year, the 2020 PrepXtra coach of the year, the 2020 Sports Awards basketball coach of the year, and the 2020 5Star Preps boys basketball coach of the year.
He boasts several college signees, including Akeem Odusipe (Vanderbilt/Kent State), Handje Tamba (Tennessee), BJ Edwards (Tennessee), Luke Smith (Sewanee/Belmont), Brock Jancek (Tennessee), and Matt Parton (Transylvania).
The Fighting Irish have a strong outlook for their final season under Mr. Hutchens.
“We looked really good in preseason,” he said. “Our young posts are coming along. We’ve got four of our five starters back from last year. I think it’s big that we’ll get to play in all of our big out-of-town tournaments this year, which all got canceled last year. I felt like that kind of slowed us up. We need to get challenged, and with our schedule it’s going to be a nice challenge.”
Mr. Hutchens talked about why KCHS is a nice place to work.
“Just the whole atmosphere,” he said. “My son (Michael), he went there and played football and basketball for us. It’s just a great community, the faith community that we have there, it’s just a wonderful place. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Mr. Smith, the 2017 state-semifinal hero for the Fighting Irish, will succeed Mr. Hutchens as head coach.
“I love it. He was a great player for us, and I couldn’t be any happier,” Mr. Hutchens said of the hire. “It’s like having my nephew take the job.”