CEDAR RAPIDS — Dennis Roloff spoke to his girls’ basketball team for the final time Wednesday afternoon.
“It was a pretty sober meeting,” he said. “They listened to what I had to say, then I told them I didn’t want to keep them from the rest of their day.
“Then I left.”
Saying that “it was time to look forward, with a little different leadership,” Cedar Rapids Kennedy athletics director Aaron Stecker announced Roloff’s retirement at 1 p.m., minutes after Roloff’s meeting with the players.
“(The administration) just felt that it is time to move forward,” Stecker said. “Dennis Roloff is a great man. He’s had a great impact on kids.”
The move is the second big one in Metro girls’ basketball circles in two days. Larry Niemeyer, a close friend for whom Roloff served as an assistant for 12 years, stepped down at Cedar Rapids Jefferson on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a lot different around here next year,” said Cedar Rapids Washington Coach Frank Howell. “Larry and Dennis, those guys are good coaches. And I count both of them as friends.
“I’ll miss seeing them during the season, and I’ll miss them when we cross paths during the summer or at all-conference meetings.”
Said Tom Lilly, coach at Cedar Rapids Xavier: “Those guys have been a cornerstone for girls’ basketball in this town for a long time.”
Roloff, 58, departs with a 21-year record of 314-165, including 18 winning seasons. He took five teams to the state tournament, reaching the semifinals in 2009 and 2010.
He retired as an industrial-arts teacher last spring, and also gave up his duties as the boys’ track coach. But he opted to retain his job with the girls’ basketball program.
Ironically, Roloff said in January that he intended to coach a while.
“I have great kids, and I have a great administration that lets me continue to do this,” he said at the time. “I want to do this for a few years.”
Within the last few days, the administration told him otherwise.
“They just told me they wanted to take a different direction,” Roloff said Wednesday. “That’s fine with me. I’ve been treated with a lot of respect at Kennedy for the last 21 years.
“It’s been a tremendous ride. I wish the best for Kennedy High School.”
Stecker said, “I know this is tough on Dennis. I hope he finds what he wants in his retirement, and I hope as some point he wants to be part of the Kennedy community.”
Kennedy was 13-10 last season. Courtney Strait led Class 4A in scoring and earned first-team all-state honors. She will graduate, but the Cougars will have a good nucleus to build around in Paige Hendrickson, Madison Meier and Stephanie Botkin.
“I think we have potential state championships walking through our hallways,” Stecker said. “This is difficult. I’ve always said that I need to look at our programs and what the kids are getting out of it.
“It’s just time for different leadership.”
A graduate of Jefferson and the University of Northern Iowa, Roloff coached two seasons at HLV before becoming an assistant under Niemeyer at Jefferson. He took the head position at Kennedy in 1991.
Often animated on the sideline, Roloff sometimes celebrated major Metro victories with his team by diving into Kennedy’s indoor swimming pool across the hall from the gymnasium.
He took his first team to state in 1999, Anne O’Neil’s junior year. O’Neil became the state’s career scoring leader the next year, a record which has since been broken.
Kennedy was 23-1 in 2004, losing to West Des Moines Dowling in the state quarterfinals. The Cougars reached the final four behind Jade Rogers in 2009 and 2010.
“I’m very happy with what happened in my 35 years as a coach,” Roloff said. “To help with kids’ success, it’s been a big thing for me.”
Stecker plans to post the job description for Roloff’s successor by the end of the week and hopes to have someone in place by the end of April.
“Ideally, I would like to (match it with a teaching job),” he said.
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL: THE ROLOFF YEARS AT CEDAR RAPIDS KENNEDY
|1998-99||19-6||Class 4A qualifier|
|2002-03||19-6||Class 4A qualifier|
|2003-04||23-1||Class 4A qualifier|
|2008-09||17-8||Class 4A semifinalist|
|2009-10||21-3||Class 4A semifinalist|
|21 Years||314-165||5 appearances|