10:50 PM EST, November 27, 2012
The building was the same, the floor was the same, the sport was the same.
Instead of being the star when he played for St. Maria Goretti until he graduated in 1987, Rodney Monroe was back as the boys basketball coach at SouthLake Christian Academy in Huntersville, N.C.
On Saturday, Monroe was on the sideline as he sent his team against his alma mater in the consolation game of the Mid-Atlantic Invitational Tournament.
“It was a great feeling coming back,” Monroe said prior to the game. “As a coach, I know what it was like playing at (the Gael Center). I told my players coming in the place would be packed, but in that sense I was not going to put the pressure on them to win.”
Monroe’s SouthLake team lost the tournament opener to St. Mary’s Ryken 88-76, and the matchup with Goretti was set when the Gaels lost to Bishop Walsh.
Unfortunately for Monroe, his Eagles lost to the Gaels in the consolation game, 75-42.
“As a coach, you want to come here and win two games,” Monroe said. “There were a lot of family and friends here. As a coach, you can’t control what the players do. I can only coach them.”
That sort of rekindled what it was like when he played under coach Cokey Robertson.
There’s no doubt Robertson told Monroe what he wanted him to do, but Monroe had the ability to make life somewhat easier for Robertson and the rest of the Gaels during a four-year stretch when Goretti went 120-25.
Monroe came into the Goretti system as a freshman, and by the time he left, he owned the Maryland state record with 3,047 points. He then went on to North Carolina State, where he scored 2,551 points and was the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year in 1991.
Following his college days, Monroe signed with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and later continued his playing career in Europe.
At 44, he still looks like he could run up and down the floor — just as Goretti did against his team Saturday night. Monroe said he still plays once a week in a 40-and-over league and smiled when he said he still manages to score 20 to 30 points when he needs to.
Monroe appeared comfortable in his return to Goretti. He was in Hagerstown in 2008 for the celebration of Robertson’s final home game as the Gaels’ coach, and since then he has made a trip or two to help out with some clinics.
He’s enjoying his coaching gig at SouthLake Christian.
“I love coaching and want to keep doing it,” Monroe said. “It’s a great job. I get to do two things by teaching basketball and sharing my faith in Jesus Christ with them.”
There is no doubt there were times during the MAIT that Monroe might have had the urge to get out on the floor.
One thing is sure: His visit had to bring back plenty of memories wearing the Blue and Gold.
Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7376 or by email at email@example.com.
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