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The Lasting Legacy of the Coach They Call Hutch

1,679 wins in, Carol Hutchins’ legacy doesn’t need any added superlatives.

22 Big Ten titles, 18 Coach of the Year awards, 4 Halls of Fame, and 1 National Championship later, her trophy case is overflowing and bursting at its very seams.

Yet, for Hutchins, her greatest legacy might be the people that have emerged from the Michigan program under her watch.

Talk to any number of former players who suited up for the coach they call “Hutch” and some common themes emerge. “A standard of excellence,” was how one alum summed up the Michigan program under Hutch’s guidance. “Her connection with her players lasts far beyond your four years at Michigan,” another added. 

The latter speaker was Abby Ramirez, a 2017 Wolverine graduate and now an assistant coach at DePaul, and she echoed a theme that many program alumni referenced about the coach for whom they all played. “Many see [Hutch’s] fierceness on the field and think she is always that intense,” Ramirez said. “She is actually hilarious and so fun to be around. Even though she can be tough at times, it is all for [her players’] own good and she truly cares about all of us as people, not just players.”

Now in her first season as a full-time college coach, Ramirez noted the impact of her time playing at Michigan and for Hutchins as direct influences on her current career path. “Playing for [Hutch] was an incredible experience that I am forever grateful for… I strive to have the same impact on my players that Hutch had on me. Hutch knows how to get the best out of people, and I try to do the same for the athletes that I coach. I try to push them to continue to raise their standards and to get better everyday. I also try to create a strong culture with the same values I learned from Hutch. Michigan was a special program to be part of and I try to replicate that everywhere I go. I still try to leave every place I go better than I found it – like Hutch always told us.”

Coaching trees are a popular topic in college sports, and oh boy, does Hutchins have a sizable one. As proof, look no further than the very Durham, North Carolina tournament where she broke the all-time NCAA wins record last weekend. Two of the other three teams in the weekend tournament are led by head coaches who also happen to be Wolverine program alumni: Northern Kentucky and Kathryn Gleason, as well as hosting Duke, led by Marissa Young.

Another member of that same coaching tree, Skeeter Gentile, played for Hutchins at the dawn of the 21st century. Now the D1 tournament director for THE Spring Games in Florida, Gentile described with reverence her time in a maize & blue uniform.

“Playing for Hutch and [associate head coach Bonnie Tholl] and becoming part of the Michigan Softball Family has been the single most influential part of my life,” Gentile said. “The discipline, leadership, standard of excellence and ability to persevere in my life are among the many things that I learned playing at Michigan.  

“When you play for Hutch you quickly learn that your standards had better rise to meet hers as she will not lower her standards and expectations to meet yours,” Gentile added. “She demanded my absolute best both on and off the field but she has a way of demanding that while letting you know that it comes from a place of love. If she didn’t care about me, she would never have demanded so much from me and she has the unique ability to make her players feel that way.”

Tough standards and someone who is always in “her people’s” corner were both overarching themes among a host of program alumni, but it’s not just the women who wore maize and blue between the lines that have felt the direct benefit of Hutch’s guidance and impact. Coaches who worked for her and peers that have competed against her were not shy about the value they found in sharing a coaches room, a plate meeting, and a sport with the living legend.

Columbia head coach Jen Teague, who served on the Wolverine coaching staff during the team’s run to a national championship in 2005, called her time in Ann Arbor “the ultimate step off” for her career, adding, “It was [Hutch’s] mentorship in 2005 and beyond that has continued to give and has allowed me to grow thru the years. Her unconditional friendship is second to none. I wouldn’t be where I am as a person or a coach without her taking a chance on me and supporting me along the way.”

Just over a decade after Teague’s tenure on staff at UM, Mary Beth Dennison was in the same shoes – a newcomer to the coaching staff, an adopted Wolverine. Dennison was in the early stages of her coaching career and had never coached above Division II before joining the Michigan staff.

“Once I went on my in-person interview, I realized that [Hutch was] not that intimidating,” Dennison shared recently. “Hutch is just someone that commands respect and attention and is a genuinely wonderful individual. Hutch treated me like a valued member of her staff every day. I was a complete outsider to Michigan and to Division I; however, there was not a day that I ever felt like I didn’t belong.”

If you’re sensing a trend, you’re not the only one. Perhaps Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle – a peer, a competitor, and a friend of Hutchins’ for decades – summed it up best. “When you’re talking to her, Carol Hutchins makes you feel like you’re the most important person in the world,” Revelle said. “Then you see her in a crowd and you realize that every person is the most important person in the world. That’s just who she is.”


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