Walking away after a legacy of success | PostIndependent.com

Walking away after a legacy of success

Joelle Milholm
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
BRET HARTMAN/bhartman@greeleytribune.com

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” For five years, Roger Walters has made the commute from his home in Rifle, to his business in Parachute then to Carbondale to coach the Roaring Fork boys basketball team and back home again.

His dedication, basketball genius and sportsmanship rubbed off on virtually every player and team he coached, and was reflected in five state tournament appearances, a 115-16 record and the Rams’ reputation as one of the top teams in the state of Colorado.

After establishing the dynasty that is the Roaring Fork boys basketball program, Walters has decided to step down as head coach. He knew earlier this year this season would be his last season with the Rams. He told his players this weekend after the Rams’ fifth consecutive trip to Fort Collins to play in the Class 3A state tournament.

“We are so busy at work. I can only work until 1:30 p.m. every other week and we have grown so much in the last five years,” Walters said of his business Face-N-Space Silkscreening. “We have tripled in size. I need to focus on work a little more and my daughter, she’s going to be in eighth grade. I just don’t have the time and commitment it takes to do it right.”

Doing it right is all Walters knows.

As his players and opponents know, it’s not Walters’ style to do anything unless it was 100 percent. While he knows he’ll miss coaching, and admits it could be in his future again someday, Walters believes he is making the right choice.

“I would try to keep it up if it was right across the street. When I first took this job gas was $1.42 a gallon. It could be $4 next year,” Walters said. “It just doesn’t make a lot of economic sense to go 140 miles every day, but I will say that it was worth it to be with the kids and the parents and the administration.”

During his time at the helm of the Ram program, Walters has coached players like Aaron Markham, who is now the starting point guard for Mesa State, Tyler Hunt, who is suiting up for Johnson and Wales University in Denver, Christian Tena, who was the 3A WSL Senior of the Year in 2005-06, and current seniors Torrey Udall and Matthias Weissl who are college-bound basketball players.

Udall, a 6-foot-8 post, feels blessed to have spent his high school career under the reign of a coach like Walters.

“I would be half the player without him,” Udall said bluntly. “I don’t think he ever gets the credit he deserves. He has taken some teams that would have never gotten to the state tournament and gotten here and done it without saying a word. He is really modest and deserves credit.”

Weissl, who transferred to Roaring Fork from Austria before the start of the current school year, played for the Rams and Walters for only one season. Even after playing basketball throughout Europe, Weissl realized playing for Walters was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“We should all be happy to have played for Roger Walters because he is the best coach we have ever played for or will ever play for. He is just amazing,” he said. “He always keeps the team together. He is just a great coach.”

Walters wasn’t just a basketball coach to his players, he was a mentor, a teacher and a friend. Markham, who played for Walters his junior and senior years at Roaring Fork, says that he talked to Walters year round. In fact, he still does “about once a week.

“He cared about you as a player and wanted you to succeed on and off the court. During football season, he would call us up and ask how it was going and come to our games. He would be there and support you almost like a father,” Markham said. “He’s such a great role model. I look up to him. He is right up there with my dad and grandfather as a role model in my life.”

Prior to coaching at Roaring Fork, Walters was the head coach at Rifle High School, where he also starred as a basketball player, baseball player and golfer during his prep days. Walters coached the Bears for seven years, accumulating a 94-59 record.

He started his basketball coaching career at Rifle and was an assistant for three years before taking over the head position.

Walters’ coaching career started in youth baseball in Rifle before his transition to hoops. Guiding his kids to be better people and better players, he’s happy to say that basketball consumed his life over the past decade.

“It gets in your blood and it is just really fun to try and accomplish something as a group. It’s so much more fulfilling than accomplishing anything individually,” Walters said. “Coaching just allows you to meet so many people… It’s been a great experience. My kids have grown up in the gym. It’s been awesome.”

Walters is walking away from the game with a 209-77 coaching record and has left the Roaring Fork trophy case well stocked. He leaves Roaring Fork with four Western Slope League Championships, four district titles, four regional crowns and five state tournament runs including the 2004-05 and ’05-06 campaigns that landed the Rams as state runner-up twice. Anyone who has seen his coaching knows his basketball games are more like chess matches, where he’s the mastermind and strategically positions his players like pawns to give his team the best opportunity to win.

“He is the best. There is not a doubt in my mind that he could coach college basketball if he wanted. He has so much knowledge of the game and is able to convey it to his players,” Markham said. “… He knows what to do to win games. He is a great motivator and he doesn’t take short cuts. He goes the extra yard.”

Even though he won’t be coaching, Walters still plans on spending a good amount of time on the basketball court. Keeping track of former players, or his daughter and nephew, or even his business partner Mark Cowan’s son Colton at Grand Valley High School will keep him busy.

“There’ll be lots of basketball to watch,” he said.

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