Bernie Rogers won 212 games in 15 seasons as the Archbishop Ryan boys basketball head coach, but beginning Aug. 1, he will hold the same title at the Haverford School of the Inter-Ac League. TIMES FILE PHOTO
Bernie Rogers came to Archbishop Ryan in his early teens and stayed into his 40s. It’s the only place he’s ever known, but a simple desire to teach and coach in the same building led the longtime Ryan boys basketball coach to seek another challenge.
For the first time in 15 years, the basketball sideline at Raiders hoops games will look a tad different.
Rogers, a 1992 graduate of Ryan who starred on the hardwood and soccer field as a student, came back to his alma mater and helmed the ship for 15 seasons. He had tons of success in the rugged Catholic League, winning 212 total games stacked against 148 losses. Rogers took Ryan to the league title game once and had the team in the semifinals four more times. For the most part, the Raiders have been an annual playoff team with Rogers in charge, but now, beginning on Aug. 1, he will be the head basketball coach at the Haverford School, where he will also be a lower- and middle-school physical education teacher. Rogers, a teacher at Gilbert Spruance Elementary in the Northeast, expressed a staunch desire to take one trip each way to the office per day and teach at the same place he coached.
He got his wish, but not before reflecting about all of the fond memories he has Archbishop Ryan to thank for.
“It was very difficult for me to leave Ryan,” Rogers said on Monday. “The relationships I had with the fellow coaches, players and administration has been nothing but positive. There was nothing more I would’ve rather wanted than to finish my career there, but this was a decision made to simplify my life for my family. I was looking for a situation to go to work, stay there, come home and have a chance to be a husband and father. To teach in one place, drive to another and coach there is more difficult than some people realize, and I’ve done it for 15 years.”
Rogers, 41, and his wife, Kim, have six children, the eldest of whom is a daughter, currently a sophomore at Ryan, as well as three sons in grade school at St. Christopher, a daughter in kindergarten and another son who is 5½ months. Rogers, who lives in Somerton, said he expects to keep his roots in the Northeast and that his daughter would finish her time at Ryan; Haverford is an all-boys school, and Rogers said his sons will probably join him at the school “at some point, which would be a unique experience and a good opportunity for them as well as me.”
Rogers was the Catholic League Coach of the Year in 2001, received the Archbishop Ryan Spirit of Ryan Award in 2014 and was inducted into the school’s Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year. He may be moving on to Haverford, but Ryan will always hold a special place in Rogers’ heart.
“The wins and the trips to the semis and championship were neat,” he said. “But the most unique thing is the relationships. I’ve had four or five former players come back and coach with me, and in the last week or two I got emails and texts from about 75 guys from my first team to last year’s team. It’s special that they stayed in touch, and I hope their four years with Ryan basketball meant something more than just wins and losses.”
Rogers admitted that competing as a neighborhood school in the Catholic League — arguably the best of its kind in the state and perhaps beyond — had “gotten more difficult in the last five years and has gone up another level,” but that’s not why he left, even after winning just six league contests combined the past two seasons. Rather, Rogers, whose deliberate, methodical Princeton-style offense often drew comparisons to Gene Hackman’s Norman Dale in the sports classic Hoosiers, said that has made the success more enjoyable.
“I’ve been blessed with good staffs and really unique, special kids from the neighborhood,” he said. “The teamwork and effort they showed, the playing to their fullest potential as individuals and a team, that made it special to do more with what we had than people thought we could do.”
Longtime Ryan athletic director George Todt — Rogers’ soccer coach when he played — hired Rogers back in the dawn of this century and has a tendency to keep things in-house when looking for coaches. Todt hired Frank McArdle (football) and Ryan Haney (girls soccer), also former star athletes at the school, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see another Ryan alum take the place of Rogers, something he would support.
“I know a few guys I’ve coached will be going for the job, and I’d love it to be a Ryan guy, someone I’m familiar with,” Rogers said. “Anyone with ties to the program we’ll root for, and it would be great to keep it going with someone you know and are personally attached to.”
Haverford, of the Inter-Ac League, certainly boasts state-of-the-art facilities and top-notch educators, but again, Rogers didn’t leave because Haverford is a “better school” than Ryan, just that he had a chance to do something there he couldn’t at his alma mater. The Raiders were a playoff team last season and Rogers believes the team is “close” to competing again atop the league with holdover talents like Austin Chabot, Austin Slawter and Izaiah Brockington all set to return.
“They’re getting bigger and stronger, and I foresee them taking another step,” Rogers said. “They’ve improved by playing a lot of minutes.”
In the end, it’s the culmination of a long, rewarding chapter of Rogers’ life, one he’ll stick up on the shelf and reflect upon whenever he’s feeling nostalgic. Fifteen years and 212 wins certainly gives him plenty of experience to reflect upon.
“I’m so proud to have had the opportunity to lead my alma mater,” he said. “I hope it means that I’m a good person, someone to root for, and the support I’ve received has meant a lot. I’ll miss the interaction with the people who worked at Ryan, as well as my players. I’ll always be a Ryan guy, that won’t change. I’ll still be supporting Ryan; I’ll still be around, but I’ll just happen to be helping some kids at a different school. It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.” ••
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