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A coachs dream come true

Jeff Caspersenjcaspersen@postindependent.comPost IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado Torrey Udall called Roger Walters one of the hardest-working coaches hes ever been around. So it was no surprise to Udall when he learned that his former coach at Roaring Fork High School is making the leap from the prep to the collegiate ranks.Walters, who took Roaring Forks boys basketball team to five straight state tournaments from 2003 to 2008, is taking his X-and-O mastery to Mesa State College, where hell be the schools new womens basketball coach.Udall watched and helped Walters take Roaring Fork to unprecedented heights in the latters five seasons as the Rams coach. In those five years, Walters owned a 115-17 record and took the program to the Class 3A state title game twice.Hes definitely one of the hardest-working coaches Ive ever been around, said Udall, a 2008 Roaring Fork graduate now playing basketball at Fort Lewis College. He gets the most out of his players. He doesnt let you settle for mediocre or a half effort. He demands a full effort. In doing so, it puts you in a position to be successful. Youll be successful as long as you put in the time, as long as you invest yourself.Its an approach thats paid off in a big way for Walters, whose 12-year head coaching career included those five years at Roaring Fork and a lengthy stint at Rifle, where he compiled a 94-59 record from 1995 to 2002 as the boys head coach. Walters spent the 2008-09 season as an assistant boys coach at Grand Valley under friend and business partner Mark Cowan. The coaching tandem guided the Cardinals to a 15-8 overall record.Joining the collegiate coaching ranks has long been a goal of Walters.Its always been kind of a dream to coach at the highest level, he said. It was just one of those things where you want to try and push yourself. Theres so many successful coaches here. I look at (baseball) coach Chris (Hanks) and (mens basketball) coach (Jim) Heaps. Theyve built great programs here. Its just a challenge. Im looking forward to working with them and trying to emulate their programs into ours and build something special here.Cowan, who works with Walters on a daily basis at Cowans Parachute silk-screening business, is thrilled to see his good friend realize his coaching dream.Im really proud of him, he said. Hes really deserving of the job. Of course, Ive spent eight years working with the guy, so I know his true passion is basketball. Its a great opportunity to do what his true passion is. I think hell be a really successful coach.Walters, who earned his bachelors degree from Mesa, will have his work cut out for him at his alma mater, where the womens basketball team recently wrapped up a 6-21 season under Timi Brown, who resigned after five seasons atop the program. Brown finished with a 58-77 record and directed the Mavericks to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament twice.One of Walters former players, Kyle Raaflaub, said his old coach is adept at rebuilding programs.When I got to high school, I couldnt remember the last time Roaring Fork made it to state, said Raaflaub, a 2007 Roaring Fork graduate. It was a mediocre program when he came in. He took it to state the first five years with two second-place finishes. We had a lot of the same kids as before. With his coaching style, you can go as far as you want.Walters, who was a teacher before transitioning to the business world, will be coaching women for the first time. All of his coaching experience has been with males.Cowan thinks the gender transition will come easily.Hes a teacher, he said. He teaches kids. He teaches not just things that work for boys, but things that work for human beings. At least in my year of coaching with him, theres never been anything hes said to boys that wouldnt work for girls. He teaches a lot more than just basketball.The first thing on Walters agenda is to meet with his new players. From there, hell focus on recruiting and putting together a staff.Meeting the players is No. 1, he said. Well kind of figure out and evaluate where were at there, and see what we need to bring in. Hopefully, well bring in some good kids that can help us out. As far as the coaching staff, well sit down with Butch and visit. We have until July to figure something out, but we have a direction where were going.Walters was formally introduced as Mesas new womens hoops coach at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, ending the schools nearly two-month search for a new coach. Brown gave notice of her resignation on Jan. 24.Mesa State Athletic Director Butch Miller told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on Tuesday that Walters was among five finalists for the gig, which drew some 80 applicants.Also in contention to the end were Longmont high school girls coach Jay Darien, Carroll College (Mont.) womens coach Shawn Nelson, University of Nebraska-Kearney assistant womens coach Karin Nicholls and Rogers State University womens assistant Michael Wells. It was an easy choice, with his personality and what he believes in and his core values, Miller said at Wednesdays press conference. Obviously, hes had success coaching basketball. Its what he brings to the table. Phil Sandoval contributed to this report

I think hell do a great job. I think hes got the qualities to be a college coach. He needs to get his foot in the door somewhere. I think hes wanted to coach college for a while. Kyle Raaflaub, a former player under Walters and a 2007 Roaring Fork graduateI knew hed never be out of (coaching). Hes a coach. Thats what he is. He always had that passion. Hes the most competitive person Ive ever met in my life. Mark Cowan, friend, business partner and co-Grand Valley boys basketball coach with Walters in 2008-09He has so many great qualities. I cant really pick one. Id just say how much of a leader he is. He was very positive, very encouraging, but he knew when to be hard and how to push you. Hes a great mentor. I definitely wouldnt be where I am today without him. Tyler Hunt, a 2007 Roaring Fork graduate and current basketball player at Johnson & Wales University (Denver)Hes definitely an X-and-O guy. He knows a lot about the game, but hes also good with personal relationships. He works hard to get you to believe in his system. I found that was the biggest piece. He makes you a better player and a better person. Torrey Udall, a 2008 Roaring Fork graduate and current basketball player at Fort Lewis CollegeRoger is an outstanding addition to our coaching staff. His experience and success as a head coach will be a great asset and allow our womens program its best opportunity to compete immediately in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Roger will bring a commitment to MSC and our student-athletes that will result in academic success and a positive college experience that will extend beyond their college years. Butch Miller, Mesa State College athletic director


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