On October 28, Notre Dame Director of Athletics Rich Roche, was a guest speaker in Professor Les Lombardi's Sports Management and Coaching Classes at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Lombardi, a long time college basketball coach, athletic administrator and mentor to Roche, is teaching at Marist following his retirement from coaching and sales in the athletic equipment industry. He is also a member of the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame. "Les and I met in 1993 when I was an Assistant Coach at Villanova University. He has been a mentor, one of my biggest supporters and frankly a great friend since that time." Roche said. "When he called and asked me to come to Marist, I immediately wanted to do it."
"Rich has had such a variety of experiences in the field. He has coached Division I, II, III, Junior College and high school basketball. He has been an Athletic Administrator in colleges, in a high school public school district and now at Notre Dame, a great Catholic High School. He was able to share so much with our students," said Lombardi.
Roche was asked to speak about his career path, his philosophies on coaching, player-coach relationships, administrator-coach relationships and Athletic Director - Upper Administration relationships. "Your philosophies in these areas are constantly evolving. Wisdom should come with experience. We should always be getting better. Once you think you know it all, it's time to retire," Roche stated. "I was able to explain to these terrific students that there is no one career path. You can get to places in a variety of ways. My career path was a bit unorthodox. I started out in Banking."
"Rich and I had so many stories to tell that we could have gone on for a week," said Lombardi. "When my students and I met the next time, we debriefed and I asked them what they thought about the time Rich spent with them. They really enjoyed him. They engaged with him. Frankly, they were amazed by how Rich paid his dues while climbing the ladder."
The Marist students were particularly captivated by Roche's experience at Villanova. "I worked full time and did not draw a salary. I went to school working on my MA in Education full time and paid for that myself," stated Roche. "They got a kick out of it when I told them I drove my bosses golf clubs from Philadelphia to La Guardia Airport, met him and drove him to where he was staying in Queens and then turned around and drove back to Villanova. I would do it again because the man gave me the opportunity to coach in the Big East! I told the students that you have to pay your dues. I was chasing a dream! Don't expect to be the head coach or have the nice corner office when you graduate from college. Frankly, sometimes, you just have to do what you are told. Sometimes there is not a discussion about it. We all have bosses who sometimes give us directives. Our job is to follow the directive and get the job done."
While at Marist, Roche ran into ND Alumna Hailee Jantorno '18, who was in a lab across the hall from where he was speaking. Jantorno plays softball at Marist. He also was able to stop in to see his good friend John Dunne, the Head Men's Basketball Coach at Marist. "Marist is a beautiful school. The campus is scenic and sits right on the Hudson River," Roche stated. "It was a great experience for me. Hopefully, Les will have me back some day."
Located on 100 beautiful acres in Central New Jersey, Notre Dame High School, founded in 1957, is a college preparatory school for grades 9 - 12, preparing young men and women for lives of purpose, built upon a foundation of Catholic faith, with a commitment to academics, co-curricular activities and service to others.