Staff Photo: Ben Beitzel. Chad Rogers is the head boys basketball coach at Mill Creek High School.
Chad Rogers, 36, is the head boys basketball coach at Mill Creek and also an assistant football coach. The 1991 Shiloh grad walked on as a wide receiver at West Georgia and started coaching girls basketball at Newnan before coaching at Peachtree Ridge.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with Rogers about how a football player teaches basketball, what children did to his life and what the lifetime Tennessee fan has to say about Lane Kiffin.
BB: How did you get from Peachtree Ridge girls basketball to Mill Creek boys basketball?
CR: I took the last year off after we won the state championship in football (at Peachtree Ridge). That next year I was so worn out. I had my second child...
BB: That will wear you out.
CR: Yeah. So, I was looking maybe to pursue some head football jobs and got offered the job at Shiloh and just didn't think it was right. Then I got offered the job over here the same weekend. I grew up with some guys here all the way since elementary school. We had won state at Peachtree Ridge and it was time for a new place, a new challenge. I live in the district so it's a nice commute.
BB: Did you play basketball in high school? How do you transition from college football player to high school basketball coach?
CR: I did (play basketball). It's one of those things, I love basketball. Since I have gotten older and had kids I don't play pick-up like I used to. I think it has a lot of similarities with football. The spacing, defense and making the game simple. If there are two guys on the basketball, find the open shooter. In football, same thing: They have two guys over here, you go over there. I try to keep games simple. It was one of those things, coming out of college, especially back then, you had to coach two sports. They said, 'You can be ninth-grade boys coach' -- because they gave me a varsity football job right off the bat -- or 'you can come be our head girls coach.' I said, 'I think I'll take the head job.'
BB: And Newnan girls basketball isn't bad.
CR: I fell into a great situation. It was a program that was 96 years old and had won three games total the past three years and had never been to the state playoffs and all of a sudden had all of this talent coming up. I did absolutely nothing, but got lucky. We finished in the top 10 in the state the next four years. We had a good program.
BB: From there you go to a brand new school in Peachtree Ridge, that had to be different.
CR: It was tough starting over again and building it. We had Maya Moore all four years I was there. Holy cow. Mill Creek was dang good with Porsha Porter. Duluth had all these freshmen that ended up taking them to the state playoffs... It was tough and we got in the playoffs that fourth year and I really thought that was a great accomplishment. I really enjoyed Peachtree Ridge.
BB: You talked about getting lucky and have seen the luck of others. At the high school level you sort of get what just shows up at your school. You don't get to pick your team.
CR: When they asked me if I would be interested in being the head coach here, the guys in the locker room are a great group of individuals. The team GPA is a 3.5.
BB: That's good for any group.
CR: Yeah (dramatic pause). And every kid in the locker room has been in the Mill Creek district coming into high school. You've got to take what you've got. Now you've got a lot of places were you get two guys who are now your two best players. I don't like that stuff. Bottom line is as a coach, you are going to have up and down years. You are going to get lucky. You are going to get a (current NBA player and South Gwinnett grad) Louis Williams one year. You are going to get a Maya Moore one year. At Peachtree Ridge we had (Ohio State defensive lineman) Cameron Heyward. But overall, there are so many high school kids I talk to on the phone that were just great high school players because they worked so hard.
BB: This seems to happen a lot around here, guys that grew up here come back. What is it about Gwinnett County that keeps people around, or coming back?
CR: I don't know. Familiarity, for me. I guess it's because so many people stay around. I like seeing and coaching and running into guys that I see they have a 10-year-old kid that acts and looks just like they did when they were 10 years old. It is just home.
BB: Coaching football, you dealt with girls and boys at the same time. What is the difference in dealing with them?
CR: Well, I coach girls hard. I coach the same way really. Our teams were defense emphasis and I like to run. I didn't have a lot of shooters. It was tough to score at Peachtree Ridge when I was there, but we played hard. The game I coached the same. The hardest thing with girls is scoring, but girls are sometimes more fundamentally sound.
BB: You aren't the first person to tell me that.
CR: But with girls if you get a team that is athletic it is easy to press, where with boys it's tough to press the whole game. So many guys can dribble the basketball. Those first few years at Newnan we were so good at pressing. Boys you have to play a little more of a half-court game. With girls it's hard to score because they don't play above the rim. Boys I enjoy the fact that they play above the rim, they are so athletic. I just wish it was easier to press because I love pressing.
BB: How much did having kids change you as a coach?
CR: I ain't as tough as I used to be. I used to scream and yell and act like a little child at times. I don't do that as much any more. I still make mistakes, but that is part of it. I am the biggest critic of myself. I think good coaches take a lot of responsibility and they take it off their kids. At practice we still get on them and push them, but you have to make changes and do things to put them in a winning situation. But having (my own) kids you want to treat other people's kids the way you want yours treated and when you are single you just don't understand. Especially when I came out of college and come out of that college level where the coaches are just all up in your face (laughs) and everybody is so talented. These are 16-year-old kids. A lot of times I think about how I was at 16 and these guys are a lot better than I was.
BB: Did West Georgia throw the ball a lot when you were there?
CR: They did. I probably got on the field more for my blocking than anything. I was on the goal line and everything else. Then the year I thought it was going to be my year they bring in some superstar that played for the New York Giants, Ron Dixon.
BB: Other than West Georgia, what teams do you watch on Saturday? You've got to have another team.
CR: Tennessee. No doubt. All my family is from Tennessee. I keep my mouth shut about Lane Kiffin. So far, I am still a Tennessee fan. I went a week ago down to the Georgia Dome.
BB: Not a good New Year's Eve.
CR: I went home. It was a great atmosphere. We still have a bunch of questions. We need a quarterback. If you don't have a quarterback...
BB: It's weird how for a sport with 22 guys on the field one can matter so much.
CR: Like baseball, if you don't have a pitcher you might as well throw it in. Basketball is a little similar. It used to be if you had a post and a point guard the others didn't matter. More and more people are getting away from that post player.
BB: It seemed like that started with Michael Jordan who showed you could win without a Russell or Kareem.
CR: It's good things have gone that way, it is easier for teams like us. At the end of the day I tell the guys I don't care if it's pretty or not. (Smiling) Just win, baby.