Legendary UIC coach Mike Dee announces retirement

Head coach Mike Dee

Mike Dee, head UIC baseball coach since 1999 and the winningest skipper in program history, announced today that the recently completed 2021 season was his final campaign.

“I was blessed 23 years ago by former athletic director Jim Schmidt with the opportunity to become the head baseball coach at UIC,” said Dee. “I have given the program every ounce of energy I could in that time and have been so fortunate to work with so many great people from the administration and support staff. In addition, I have been lucky to work with so many great and enthusiastic coaches and players in my time here.

“All that we’ve ever asked of the players is to passionately pursue greatness as a student, personally, and as a player,” Dee said. “The time has come where I no longer have the energy to lead this program and I am retiring. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to be a part of this great university, department and program.

“I will treasure the relationships that I’ve had with all of the great folks that have touched and influenced this program,” added Dee. “They were the most important part of building the successes that we have enjoyed over the past two decades. I am so proud of what we have achieved together on the field, in the classroom, and in helping young men become successful people. The families that have been involved here have been wonderful to work with and I thank them all for entrusting their son’s welfare to our care.”

“We are profoundly grateful for Mike’s contributions to our baseball program,” said UIC Director of Athletics Michael Lipitz. “His impact on his student-athletes and the Chicago baseball community will be remembered and appreciated by Flames everywhere. We look forward to celebrating Mike with his family, friends and former players together on campus this fall.”

Associate head coach Sean McDermott arrived at UIC with Dee ahead of the 1999 season and been at his side for more than 1,200 games since. McDermott has been named acting head coach and will assume permanent leadership of the program pending approval by the Board of Trustees.

“I am deeply grateful that the current staff will continue to grow this program, and I have little doubt that they will elevate the program to even greater heights,” Dee said.

“Mike provided the vision of what UIC Baseball could look like 23 years ago and he built a program founded on the development of the whole student-athlete,” McDermott said. “His true appreciation for the student-athlete has been displayed throughout his career as he’s always pushed our players and coaches to be the best they can be in all areas of their life. There is no doubt that Mike’s leadership and dedication have led to the consistent success of our UIC Baseball program.

“The expectations for UIC Baseball have been changed forever due to Mike’s leadership. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me 23 years ago and he has been a good mentor, leader and friend ever since,” said McDermott. “I am truly excited for him and [wife] Annie to share the next chapter in their lives together.”

Dee guided UIC to a program-best 680 victories, 12 Horizon League championships and six NCAA Tournament berths (2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2017 and 2019). His 680 victories also rank in the Top 40 of all active NCAA Division I coaches this spring. He was named Horizon League Coach of the Year a conference-record 10 times, while no one else has earned the distinction more than four times. Dee was most recently tabbed Horizon League Coach of the Year in 2017 when he was also selected as the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Mideast Region Coach of the Year. He posted an impressive 65.1% career-winning percentage against conference competition.

Dee inherited a team that won only 11 games in 1998 prior to his arrival but quickly built it up for sustained success. His squads won at least 30 games in a season 12 times in his 23 years, including each year from 2000-08, and again in 2017, 2018 and 2021. The 2002, 2003 and 2017 squads all matched a program record with 39 wins, and the 2002 group owns the best winning percentage of any team under Dee’s direction at 70.9% (39-16).

Over the past 23 seasons, 117 players have earned First Team or Second Team All-Conference distinction, including seven in 2021. UIC has seen at least seven players voted to the All-Conference Team nine times under Dee’s direction, and at least two players every single season. On top of that, 56 former standouts were picked for the All-Newcomer of All-Freshman Team, including the 2021 Freshman of the Year, Cole Conn.

UIC has produced 17 All-Region honorees, eight All-Americans and nine freshmen All-Americans since 2002. The Flames have had the conference’s Newcomer of the Year eight times, the Pitcher of the Year six times, the Relief Pitcher of the Year six times and the Player of the Year four times.

More than 50 of Dee’s former players moved on from UIC to play professional baseball. In the last three full Major League Baseball drafts since 2017, 11 student-athletes were drafted by eight different organizations and three more signed professional contracts as free agents.

Undoubtedly the most recognizable name to emerge from the UIC baseball program during Dee’s era is Curtis Granderson, the three-time MLB All-Star, four-time Marvin Miller Man of the Year honoree and 2016 Roberto Clemente Man of the Year recipient. After starring as an outfielder for the Flames from 2000-02, Granderson would go on to play in more than 2,000 games with seven MLB clubs over 16 seasons.

“Coach Dee has impacted and done so much for so many individuals that have played this game and called UIC home,” said Granderson. “He has put UIC on the map. I thank Coach Dee for bringing me into the program and continuing to coach me even long after my college days. ‘Don’t think, have fun’ has been my motto as a college baseball athlete and even after I’ve continued up to this day. Congratulations for everything you have done!”

Dee and Granderson teamed up in 2013 to unveil plans for a new on-campus baseball facility at UIC. Granderson Stadium opened on April 17, 2014, and in addition to serving as the home of Flames’ baseball, is a hub for numerous Chicago youth sports initiatives.

Dee subsequently spearheaded the renovation of the former Physical Education Building gymnasium into the Flames’ 34,000 square foot indoor training facility.

Dee joined UIC in 1998 after serving as the pitching coach at the University of Minnesota for 11 seasons. He helped the Golden Gophers reach the NCAA Tournament seven times during his stint in the Twin Cities.

Dee began his coaching career at his alma mater, Aquinas High School in La Crosse, Wis. He won 100 games in six seasons and was named the 1987 Wisconsin State High School Coach of the Year.

Flames Athletics will host a celebration of Coach Dee during the baseball team’s alumni weekend this fall. Complete details will be announced later this summer.

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