Armstrong: Roberts’ passion will be hard to replaceBatavia coach Jim Roberts directs his team.
Simeon at Batavia on 2/2/08 CREDIT: Patrick Gleason/for the S-T
We’ll miss him.
One of the classiest guys in the area basketball coaching ranks, Batavia’s Jim Roberts, stepped down Monday for “family health reasons.” While he’s doing fine, Roberts’ time will be diverted this summer in the so-called “offseason” that has become anything but slow for prep coaches these days.
Roberts feels too strongly about his hometown’s basketball program and its kids to even consider short-changing them.
“I just don’t think I can do it justice by being away that much. A lot of that went into (the decision),” said the guy who grew up idolizing the Battlin’ Bulldogs,’ playing for them and then coaching them.
After 27 seasons, he steps down as the second longest tenured coach in the area, trailing only West Aurora’s Gordie Kerkman. It’s been a heckuva run.
“I’m very fortunate to have been influenced by some very darn good coaches,” said Roberts. “The guy who hired me, Joe Yagel had great success here. And Don Vandersnick (who preceded Yagel) was a legend. Then there’s (former West Aurora and NIU coach) John McDougal, Gordie Kerkman, (St. Charles’) Ron Johnson and (King’s) Landon Cox.
“I’m very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity to pick a lot of those guys’ brains.”
McDougal, in particular, was a big influence.
“He always told me, ‘The destination is great, but enjoy the journey,’” said Roberts, who did just that regularly taking his team to challenging places to play like Quincy, Thornton, Crane Tech, Rock Island and Proviso East.
Roberts didn’t shy from tough competition. The Batavia Night of Hoops he started 19 years ago exemplifies that, having grown into an institution that draws some of the best programs around to play Batavia and other area teams. The format is now copied by many.
Roberts, with 455 wins, of course, has great memories of successes.
“(But) some of the most memorable games were the ones that came down to the end of the game and we got beat,” he said. “The first King game in ’96 (at the Night of Hoops) was a heckuva game and that’s allowed me to benefit from a friendship with a man like Landon Cox. The first Simeon game, a double-overtime loss. … it’s been a neat thing to see develop, along with some of the great players that have played in there.”
There are others, too.
“The single loudest game may have been the 2004 regional championship game against East Aurora when Kevin Bryant hit a three-pointer to put us in the lead for good. I really thought the roof was gonna come down that night, it was so loud, coming from both sides of the gym.”
One of my favorites?
Watching Roberts coach his team on defense in a tight game, getting into the stance he wanted from them then moving with them trying to will another defensive stop. It was passion personified.
Passion for Batavia that will be hard to duplicate.