Resignation of Roaring Fork High School hoops coach leaves a big hole
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Kelly Meek has known Roger Walters for a long time. In Meek’s 35-year tenure as the head boys basketball coach at Steamboat Springs High School, he’s seen Walter’s transition from player, to assistant coach to head coach.
He’s coached against him as Class 4A Western Slope League rivals and in tournaments when Walters was with Roaring Fork. Through the years they’ve become more than just opponents, they’ve become friends.
“We have a tremendous relationship,” Meek said of Walters, who resigned his post as head coach of the Roaring Fork boys basketball team this week. “I have a great amount of respect for him from when he was a player to a coach. I consider him one of the best coaches I have ever observed and coached against.”
Meek thinks so highly of Walters that last week he took a break from visiting his father, who has been in the hospital in Grand Junction for three and a half months, to go to Fort Collins and see Walters and the Rams play in the Class 3A state tournament.
“I was just hoping to see him break through and get that state title,” Meek said.
A state championship is about the only thing missing from Walters’ resume, which includes a 209-77 overall record, six league championships, four district championships, four regional titles, two state runner-up finishes and seven different coach of the year honors.
His numbers, his basketball knowledge, his class and his discipline have been recognized by coaches around the state, many of whom know things just won’t be the same without Walters on the sidelines next year.
“The coaching fraternity is losing someone who, number one, is an incredible coach and, number two, is a better person. You can see how hard his kids play for him. It is just an absolute joy to see a coach like that,” said Kent Denver head coach Todd Schayes, who has faced Walters in the last two state tournaments. “He is one of the state’s best ” 3A, 4A, 5A, doesn’t matter. I feel honored to have coached against him.”
Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum has coached against Walters for five years, but clearly remembers how things were at Roaring Fork before Walters’ arrival. In Ketchum’s first five years in Aspen, the Skiers never lost to Roaring Fork playing the Rams three times a year.
“When Roger came on board, everything changed. We did not win a game for four years until this year,” Ketchum said. “We had four straight years of getting our butts kicked. It was no fun. Every time we played them we knew we were in for a battle, a war and you knew it was going to be long and painful.”
Ketchum, who has coached for 26 years in different states and even at the professional level in Europe, said that trying to match wits with Walters was impossible.
“He was absolutely no fun to coach against,” Ketchum said. “He is one of the best defensive minds I have ever seen coach the game and that is a complement. He is a General Patton. He is a leader among leaders.”
Coaches aren’t the only ones who have noticed Walters’ brilliant coaching style and the sportsmanship he instills in his players. Officials approach him to shake his hand and comment on how they enjoy to referee his team’s games. Even the workers at the state tournament in Fort Collins have experienced Walters’ kindness. Miariam Chaviez, Virginia Bailey and Barb Blehm have been manning the entrance of Moby Arena all five years Walters was with Roaring Fork and made trips to the 3A Great Eight.
Walter’s took the time to learn their names, taught his players to treat them with respect and even brought them a bouquet of yellow roses to put on their table ” a gesture they’ve never received from any other coach.
“He is such a role model for those kids. They are all nice kids and it has to start from some place and it is definitely Roger,” Chaviez said. “He is just so thoughtful and appreciative of what’s going on.”
Even though Walters and his team didn’t win the WSL this year and didn’t win a game in the state tournament, it was another successful chapter in his coaching career. Roaring Fork was one of the last eight teams still standing, which Ketchum believes is a remarkable feat.
“This year was probably his best year coaching. He had less talent, less skilled team, but he still got to the big dance,” Ketchum said. “Do you know how hard it is to get to the state tournament? I’d say 90-95 percent of coaches will go without ever doing it and he’s done it five years in a row.”
So now Roaring Fork will enter its post-Walters era and while Ketchum said he knows the Rams will find a good coach to replace Walters, but he’s glad he doesn’t have to do it.
“Personally, I would not want to be the guy that replaces him,” Ketchum said. “There is only one Roger Walters. It is like following Bob Knight or Roy Williams are Rick Pattino.”
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The brackets are set for the 12-team 4A girls lacrosse state championships, and the Roaring Fork Rams are dancing as the No. 9 seed.