Mesa’s Walters resigns
Roger Walters told his basketball team time and time again the past three years that family comes first.
Friday, Walters, 45, put his family first and resigned as the women’s basketball coach at Colorado Mesa University.
Three years of commuting from just outside Rifle to Grand Junction and missing his own daughters’ events took its toll, Walters said after breaking the news to his team.
“Taylor’s going to be a senior and I don’t want to miss anything,” Walters said. “Elle’s in sixth grade and she’s starting to play a ton and loves the game. I don’t want to miss out. These years go by really quick for them.
“I need to be a better dad and be closer to home and have a normal job in the town where I live. They’ve been so great and supportive of me over the years and my coaching, I thought it was time to give back and do the right thing.”
It wasn’t only the past three years driving more than an hour to Grand Junction and then back home — Walters spent from 2003-2008 driving to Carbondale to coach the Roaring Fork boys team.
The decision wasn’t made lightly, but wasn’t something that had been building for a long time, he said.
Over the past couple of weeks it weighed on him more and more, and earlier this week he decided it was time to make the change.
On home weekends during the season, Elle was usually with her dad in Grand Junction, with his wife, Christy, attending Taylor’s games.
“That was really hard,” Walters said. “Elle and I lived our lives down here and Christy and Taylor lived their lives there and it’s an unbelievable sense of guilt not being there for your kids.
“It was really hard, Thursday through Sunday (asking), ‘How’d they do this weekend? How’d Taylor play?’ ‘’
Walters, who taught social studies, American history and geography at Rifle during his seven-year tenure as the Bears’ boys coach (1995-2002), said whatever his next job is, it needs to be in the Rifle area. No more commuting.
“During the season I’d leave before they got up,” he said. “I’d leave at 6 and the girls weren’t up yet, and a lot of times I’d get home at 7, 8 at night and wouldn’t see them.
“I know a lot of people deal with that on a regular basis, but if I have a choice, I don’t want to do that.”
It was an emotional team meeting Friday, and afterwards, Walters choked up talking about his family and his team during a half-hour interview with The Daily Sentinel.
“That’s what I talked to them about today, family is first and I hoped they understood. Doing what’s right isn’t always easy, but it’s always right,” he said. “For my family, I thought this was right and I hoped they understood.”
They did, said Kelsey Sigl, who will be a senior next season.
“Me, personally, I don’t have any trouble realizing where he’s coming from and I respect his decision,” Sigl said.
She said the Mavericks are upset to lose their popular coach, and didn’t know anything about his decision until Friday’s meeting.
“It had to be tedious, driving 2 1/2 hours each day, on top of being away from his girls, growing up at an important time in their lives,” she said. “It had to be strenuous on him. It’s definitely understandable.”
In three seasons, Walters took a struggling program and turned it into one that made the RMAC playoffs the past two seasons and leaves with a 38-42 record.
“That’s always a coach’s goal, to leave it in better shape than when you got it,” he said. “I wish I could stay longer, but it’s just time.”
Walters said a solid recruiting class will join the nucleus of what’s now a veteran team next season, which will include the return of senior guard Sharaya Selsor, who left school for personal reasons, but will be back to play her final year with her sister, Katrina.
A national search will begin immediately to fill the position, CMU Athletic Director Butch Miller said.
Next season, Walters will be a dad in the stands at Rifle games. When the Bears have a weekend night off, don’t be surprised to see him — and the whole family — at Brownson Arena.
“I think they have something special, and they realize it,” he said. “They’ll band together. It’s a great group of kids, it really is. That’s the hardest thing, to leave a group like that.”
“I know he’s going to be our biggest fan in the stands next year,” Sigl said. “No doubt.”