Todd Rogers still has some gas left in the tank.
Rogers, who has 376 career wins, announced this week a return to the bench to assume the head girls basketball coaching position at Spirit Lake. He will also be a fourth-grade teacher at the elementary school.
“I wasn’t thinking about it too much unless a great opportunity came up, and this did,” Rogers said. “There was something about Spirit Lake … the people just blow me away. A couple years off, I hope I have many years left in the tank. … It’d be nice to call Spirit Lake the end right there.”
Rogers, 48, started his coaching career at New Hampton as an assistant, then his first head coaching gig was in 1994 at Seymour.
Mediapolis came calling in 1997 and Rogers spent 20 years with the Bulldogs. Rogers won 11 Southeast Iowa Super Conference championships and took them to two state tournaments, in 2014 and 2015.
Mediapolis lost to MOC-Floyd Valley in the Class 3A 2014 state semifinals.
In 2014-15, the Bulldogs went 25-1, as their only loss came at the hands of Nevada in the 3A semifinals in Des Moines.
Rogers had seven 20-win seasons under his belt during his time with the Bulldogs.
Rogers started coaching when he was 22 years old and hopes that Spirit Lake can provide more of experience — and wins, of course — under his belt.
“They have some really good talent that’s coming back, and even down through the grades,” Rogers said. “I can see challenges there, but I can also see the girls work hard. The future is bright, and I can’t wait to get started. I’m going to care a lot about the kids teaching and coaching, and bring a lot of energy. That’s not going to change.
“We’re definitely going to be aggressive on the basketball court,” Rogers added. “We hope to be a team that gets to the free throw line a lot. We like to dribble drive, those types of things. We hope to be fun to watch, that’s going to be our goal.”
Rogers has had chances to talk with some of the returning Indians players, and he’s liked what he’s heard and seen so far in terms of excitement.
Rogers applied for the Indians open position through teachiowa.gov, a web site for teachers to find jobs around Iowa.
But, it wasn’t Rogers who first found it. Instead, it was his son, Tyler Rogers, that found it first.
Rogers wasn’t sure at first if he wanted to apply for the job. He and his wife, Angela, were still living in Mediapolis and Todd was still teaching fourth grade in the school district.
Tyler was in the middle of his first year inside the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Iowa, and his daughter Mackenzie had finished her sophomore women’s basketball season at Western Illinois in Macomb, Illinois.
Todd Rogers didn’t think he wanted to move away from Mediapolis, as the town is a good middle-ground point between Iowa City and Macomb.
However, his two kids encouraged their dad to go after the Indians position.
“Both our kids told us that this was a great opportunity for us,” Todd Rogers said. “They only have a couple years left (of college), and this would be a great place to come up to in the summer. It was a no-brainer. The main thing was that the kids were on board with this. My kids were pushing us the whole way.”
Northwest Iowa also provides the family a chance go watch Mackenzie play road games in the Summit League.
Spirit Lake is less than a 2 ½-hour drive to Vermillion, South Dakota, for games against USD and it takes about the same length of time to go to Brookings, should they want to watch the Leathernecks play SDSU.
During her sophomore season, Mackenzie Rogers played 14 games for the Leathernecks, and scored seven points on the season under ninth-year coach J.D. Gravina.
Rogers does have a connection with Spirit Lake.
He took some of his Mediapolis teams up to the Spirit Lake team camps, so the Bulldogs could play against some strong competition not found in southeast Iowa.
The Bulldogs came to the camp in the summer of 2011, then returned in 2014. They played good competition and it was also a good way for the team to bond outside of home.
“We always had talented Mediapolis teams, but we wanted to get them to the next level,” Todd Rogers said. “That team camp pushed us to the next level. We felt like it was a mini-state tournament.”
Indians activities director Rachel Fisher ran those camps that the Bulldogs visited, and got a first-hand glimpse of what Rogers will bring to the program.
“We got a great coach and we’re looking forward for him to work with our student-athletes,” Fisher said.
Rogers always loved how nice of a community Spirit Lake was.
“We got to know some people around Spirit Lake, and we also got to know the town,” Todd Rogers said. “It’s such a beautiful place. It’s incredible with everything. I feel like it was a great opportunity, and I couldn’t let it slip by.”
A different process
The process to hire Rogers was a different one for Spirit Lake administrators.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fisher and other administrators weren’t able to sit down face-to-face with Rogers.
So, they had to speak with Rogers through Zoom, but Fisher noticed Rogers’ eagerness and energetic personality through a computer screen.
“He showed incredible enthusiasm and energy, which were two things we were looking for,” Fisher said. “We were still able to get a good grasp of who he is. His energy wasn’t hiding behind a computer screen.”
In terms of expectations, neither Rogers nor Fisher wanted to put a number on wins and losses. Fisher’s biggest expectation is to feed more energy into the Spirit Lake girls basketball program.
Fisher has tried to tell the players about Rogers’ background, and the girls seemed excited.
“We want to build a program to the point where we get 30 girls out every single year,” Fisher said. “If you get girls excited and wanting to come to the gym every day wanting to learn, then he will be able to have success out on the court.
“We want the girls to be excited,” Fisher added. “We’ve built them up. They know they’re getting a proven winner and someone that has a ton of experience coaching girls basketball.”
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