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Roger Powell returning to Valparaiso with a clear goal in mind
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There will be plenty of coverage from Roger Powell’s hiring in the days to come, including a 1-on-1 conversation with Valparaiso President Jose Padilla as he lays out the progress toward building a new athletics facility. Please become a paid subscriber to receive all of these stories in your inbox as well as getting access to a full archive of all published stories on TheVictoryBell.com. I greatly appreciate your support. - PO
VALPARAISO - Roger Powell Jr. walked back into the Athletics-Recreation Center with a purpose and a vision on Wednesday morning.
The vision was an image that has been seared into his mind for seven years. The purpose was to fulfill some unfinished business.
Powell was introduced as the new Valparaiso men’s basketball coach in front of a mixture of media, athletics staff and community supporters on Wednesday.
“Bryce (Drew) and I talked about possibly of taking Valpo to a Final Four,” Powell said. “We had it in our hearts. It was a vision of ours. Unfortunately, we left and went to Vanderbilt. I coached at Vanderbilt, coached at Gonzaga, actually coached in the Final Four, but coming back here today, I come back with the mindset that I have some unfinished business.”
The last time Powell stood in the ARC was following Valparaiso’s 2016 NIT quarterfinal victory over St. Mary’s, a team that he got to know well over the last four years while coaching at Gonzaga. The indelible image of that night was of the coach known as “The Rev” leading a prayer group of 5,000 strong following the victory. Valpo went on to reach the NIT title game in a year which began with visions of winning a game in the NCAA tournament.
Those same visions are what Powell brought with him to the ARC on Wednesday and they lay the groundwork for his purpose.
Powell mapped out his vision on Wednesday morning while Valparaiso President Jose Padilla and director of athletics Charles Small sat nearby with satisfied smiles on their faces. Smiles earned at the end of a long, yet deliberate coaching search that lasted 16 days. Long, yet deliberate could also be used to describe Powell’s opening remarks to the assembled crowd at the ARC.
“I’m a preacher and a coach, so I can get long winded,” Powell said in the middle of a nearly 18-minute speech before he took questions from the media for another 20 minutes.
Powell started with a nod to the past as he talked about that image from 2016.
“The last time I was on this floor, it was literally a packed house,” Powell said. “I was in the middle of the court. I have this picture in my mind and in my heart, and I’m going to put it up in my office. The whole community is surrounding me. I was praying and giving God thanks for what an awesome season we had and for an awesome win in front of this community. That moment right there stuck with me. Now it’s pretty surreal that I’m right back seven years later, hoping that we’re gonna do that again.”
Powell may have had the chance to be Valparaiso’s head coach in 2016, but he chose to follow Bryce Drew to Vanderbilt for three seasons. He then spent four years working for Mark Few at Gonzaga. Powell has had numerous opportunities to become a head coach in the last seven years, but he exercised patience and is now back where his coaching career started.
“I wasn’t in a rush,” Powell said. “I took my time. I was very calculated because I wanted to make sure that the place I went to would embrace me for who I was and would value who I am as a preacher and a coach. In the interview I shared with the board, with (Small) and with (Padilla) that this is who you’re going to get as your head coach.”
Powell went on to talk about how vital inspirational leadership is to his coaching approach. It’s the same approach he used as a player at Illinois which earned him his nickname. Powell reached the national title game in 2005 as a player and in 2021 as an assistant at Gonzaga. Echoing Scott Drew’s introductory press conference at Valparaiso from 2002, Powell spoke of the same lofty goals, goals that will take some inspirational leadership to achieve.
“I’m expected to do something amazing here,” Powell said. “My mindset is not limited. Why can’t we go to the Final Four? Why can’t we win multiple conference championships? That’s what I’m bringing. That’s what I’m believing and my players better have that mentality because we’re going to do it.”
Powell wrapped up his opening remarks by imploring the community to come out to the ARC and support the Beacons. With the transfer portal and NIL becoming the dominant characteristics of college basketball, Powell is coming back to Valpo in a different world than the one he left.
“I want to capitalize on these things,” Powell said. “Some of these things we’re going to need the community for. This is your team. Valparaiso, we are your team. Northwest Indiana, we are your team. We need to do this together. You guys are gonna join us and it’s going to be that much more rewarding when we do this as a community I can’t wait for the day that we win a championship and we can point to our fans, to everyone in this room, and we can say thank you, that you guys were a part of this.”
Finally, Powell closed by providing a bridge to Valparaiso’s new identity. While he helped lead two teams to the NCAA tournament when he coached the Crusaders, Powell returns to Valpo to lead the Beacons. It’s a task that he is ready for.
“My responsibility as a man of God, as a leader, as a man of faith, is to shine a light,” Powell said. “How fitting is it to be a Beacon? I want out community, our city, our state, the surrounding states, the nation, I want them to see our light. It’s time for us to shine our light. That light is going to impact change in people. It’s going to be inspirational. I want you guys to remember when I said that ‘I’m a Beacon,’ that means that light is gonna shine bright. So, Beacon Up. Shine you light. Let’s get to work.”
As mentioned above, there will be plenty more coverage of Powell’s opening press conference at The Victory Bell for paid subscribers. Thank you for your support.
(I took that beautiful first photo. The second one was downloaded directly from Powell’s mind, as well as ValpoAthletics.com)