Grady Lee Thomas
As the 2010-2011 regular season gets under way, there is excitement surrounding the women’s basketball team with the addition of new head coach, Matt Rogers.
Rogers grew up in the small Midwest town of Lena, Ill. – population 2,400 – and was the youngest of five children.
He and his wife, Karen, have a 1-year-old daughter, Kaia.
Rogers decided to come to California to coach because he and his wife were raised in the Midwest and wanted a change of scenery for their family.
They also wanted to assure his one year old daughter, Kaia would be surrounded by female role models like the players on his team.
Growing up with two older brothers and sisters can have its pros and cons, but Matt Rogers definitely became well rounded as a coach, father, and man. He finished his undergraduate studies at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and then began coaching shortly after.
Rogers has been coaching boys and men’s teams at the high school and college level for the past 15 years.
For the past nine years, Rogers has been a very instrumental part of the men’s basketball program at Maryville University.
Prior to being hired at La Verne, Rogers led the Maryville men’s basketball team to Division II prominence in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, claiming two conference championships and helping the program reach two national tournaments.
Coach Rogers is known for playing a fast and aggressive style with his teams and it should be no different for the Leopards.
“I think the success I’ve had has matured and relaxed me. I am much more efficient than I was as a younger coach. I feel I’m just as passionate as I was ten years ago, but I understand how to approach the game more,” Rogers said.
“I understand that the accolades are not as important as the experience for the student-athletes. I want them to feel like they’ve come to the right place. Here, our girls can develop into who they want to be,” Rogers said.
Rogers’ experience as a head coach is not only proven through his success, but also tempered through his humbleness.
“I came to California for a lot of reasons. This is a great fit for us, we have a daughter and wanted her to be around female role models. From our players to our athletic director, they are solid people and a big factor in deciding to coach women,” Rogers said.
Rogers is inheriting a team that is ripe for success. The Leopard women’s basketball program has performed consistently well in recent years, going 70-35 since the 2006-2007 regular season.
“We want to get better at what we do everyday. I’m a big believer in the principles of Division III basketball,” Rogers said
“We want to play all of our girls. If they are working as hard as I’m asking them to work on a consistent basis, I’m going to find a way to get them all on the floor in a significant way,” Rogers said.
La Verne has five returning seniors this season and they hope to improve on their 12-13 record from last year.
The Leopards finished sixth in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season. They will begin SCIAC play at 8 p.m. on Jan. 8 where they will play host to Whittier.
Grady Lee Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.