Story and photo by NARCISO THOMAS VILLARREAL
One talent can take you places but another is a dead end.
This was a metaphor that Pima Community College men’s basketball head coach Roderick Gary used to describe his day job as program manager of the Information and Outreach team.
He said a dance enthusiast could improve his or her dancing talents by enrolling in the dance program at PCC, then transfer to the University of Arizona, or the dancer could be diverted by becoming involved in the club scene if misdirected.
Gary’s road to head of the Pima men’s basketball program included stops at the Arizona Daily Star and high school officiating.
“I don’t think I could do my job here if I had not had the experience working at the newspaper,” Gary said.
His current duties include providing people with information on degrees, programs, grants, scholarships and just about any information they inquire about the college.
Gary, 53, was born in the small town of East Chicago, Ind., a former steel and railroad town near the south rim of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago.
After moving to Tucson in 1970, Gary graduated from Sahuaro High School in 1975, where he played on the freshman, junior varsity and varsity basketball teams.
In high school, Gary said, he didn’t take his studies seriously. He added that he thinks a lot of minority male students tend not to take the education process seriously at a young age.
After high school, Gary played basketball for Cochise College from 1975-1977. In 1980, he earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communication and journalism at Northern Arizona University.
While attending NAU, he was placed on academic probation. He said he spent more time partying and was fortunate he had good parents. Instructors also didn’t give up on him and stayed with him.
“I owe a lot to the instructors I had at Cochise and NAU,” Gary said.
For 20 years he worked as a reporter in Tucson, 16 at the Arizona Daily Star and four at Tucson Newspapers. He reported on all aspects of the news but was a business reporter and editor for half of his career.
Gary has a long resume for coaching basketball. He was an assistant coach for the PCC men’s basketball team in 1989-90 and 1998-99. In the years in between, he was at Sahuaro.
He then replaced Karl Pieroway as the PCC head coach in July 2010 after Pieroway resigned, was re-hired and resigned again. Pieroway led the Aztecs to seventh place at Nationals last season.
Gary said officiating middle and high school basketball games from 2007-09 made him want to get back into coaching.
“The crowd is never behind the officials,” he said.
In his first year as head coach, the Aztecs finished the season at 5-23 overall and last in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference at 2-20.
“It was a disappointing season,” Gary said. “I think the kids played hard.”
The Aztecs suffered many setbacks throughout the season that include injuries, academic ineligibility and personal issues.
“I’m not one to make excuses, but I will make excuses for things that were out of their control,” Gary said.
He will try to lead the Aztecs from their 16-game losing streak in his second season.
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