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Calexico basketball coach calls it quits

June 27, 2001|By JON HINSHAW, Sports Writer

Seventeen wins, second place in the Imperial Valley League and a home playoff game.

Great strides were made this season by the Calexico High School boys basketball team under the tutelage of third-year head coach Juan Rodriguez.

The Bulldogs will have to hope the one-year trend can continue without its leader as Rodriguez has called it quits.

Citing personal reasons and a desire to spend more time with his family, Rodriguez stepped down last week, ending a six-year run in the Calexico varsity program.

"I felt it was time to move on," said the 38-year-old Rodriguez. "I always told myself when it came to the point where I wasn't having enough fun I would move on.

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"Also, my kids are growing up," he continued, "and basically my priorities have changed. My family demands a lot more attention now than in the past."

Rodriguez was an assistant for three years under coaches Marty Zwart and Allyn Atadero before taking the helm in 1999. He guided the Bulldogs to the CIF playoffs in 1999 after a seven-win season but missed the playoffs in 2000 after an eight-win campaign.

The two years of growing as a head coach paid off last season as Calexico enjoyed a fine campaign.

"I had a group of kids that we're the hardest workers that I've ever had," said Rodriguez. "They were able to accomplish a lot."

The Bulldogs won 17 games — more than their previous two seasons combined — last season and finished 5-3 in the IVL behind Brawley Union and brought it a first-round home CIF playoff game.

Calexico looked good from the start of the season. The Bulldogs finished second in the Granite Hills Invitational in El Cajon and won at the Pepsi Shootout in Calipatria.

"He did a great job in Calexico," said Zwart, now coach at Southwest High in El Centro, of Rodriguez. "I think he'll really be missed."

Calexico athletic director Ray Alvarado agreed, although he had to grieve about the situation in two ways. He said he was sad to see Rodriguez go and now he has to find a replacement.

"It's going to be tough to find another coach as good as he was," said Alvarado, who coached basketball at Calexico until 1989. "I hate to see good young coaches leave.

"He brought in a lot of hard work and he worked hard to make the kids committed to the program," he added. "We're now hoping all the long hours and commitment he put in rubbed off on our younger kids."

The kids Rodriguez will now rub off on will be his own children, ages 3 and 6, to whom he plans to devote most of his time.

"I want to try and do other things," said Rodriguez, a teacher at De Anza Junior High School in Calexico. "Coaching is not out of the question for me and I'll probably coach Little League baseball or something, but I'm definitely going to continue to coach my own kids.

"I've really enjoyed my time as a coach in Calexico," he added. "I learned a lot from the kids and the other coaches in our league. Sometimes I got beat, but it was nice."

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