The holidays with all the running about and festivities are in the rear view mirror. In basketball circles, the conference play is upon us as non-league action is in the books. With the excitement of this part of the season comes a sadness and emptiness. George Rodecker, a good friend of ours and many, is no longer with us.
George passed away on Christmas Eve following an illness culminating with several weeks in the hospital. He was two days shy of his 65th birthday.
In later years health was an issue. George may have slowed down a bit on the coverage scene but not in enthusiasm. When we met two decades ago he was publishing a four-page draft report. Prospects were ranked by position and it proved to be both comprehensive and well-written. While the draft was his passion, George also loved the college game.
In recent seasons he developed a love and appreciation for the women’s game. The women played a bit below the rim and at a slower tempo. Especially enticing was their teamwork, adherence to fundamentals and sportsmanship. George’s ‘local’ team was Marist. It proved to be an advantageous and special time to follow the Red Foxes, as Brian Giorgis was in Poughkeepsie reversing the fortunes of a moribund program. Recognizing his expertise, he was a member of several women’s award committees.
Beside his newsletter, George wrote for a number of publications and sites, including Hoopville. I had the good fortune to collaborate with him on several articles.
Beside the love of the game and outstanding coverage, to yours truly George will be missed as a friend and colleague. Many times we drove in and later took NJ Transit to Madison Square Garden. Those journeys were the best of times, usually punctuated with coffee (always) and a good cigar (occasionally).
Road trips were sometimes classified as legendary. Back in 2000, George studied the local New York-New Jersey area schedules and came up with a way to cover four games on a Saturday in January. Off we went in his car with the license plate ‘HOOPLA’ (the name of his newsletter). First stop was Boston College at St. John’s in a Big East game (yes, the Eagles resided in the Big East back then). Next it was down the New Jersey Turnpike for Miami at Rutgers. Another Big east encounter, and once again, both schools resided in that conference back in the day. Then, there was the road up the Turnpike to St. Francis (PA) at FDU. After that contest it was a few miles down route 17 to Continental Airlines Arena. Seton Hall hosted West Virginia. The day beginning with a 9 a.m. departure from my Lyndhurst, NJ home ended just after 11 p.m. Four games and countless cups of Starbucks. I can’t remember who won all of the four contests, but do recall it was a classic experience.
Not every road trip measured up to that experience. That is a tough standard to measure up to. The many times traveling and/or covering games together, though, were special and are embedded as precious memories.
George loved basketball and other sports; he was a devout Chicago Cubs fan. He was first and foremost a family man and one of devoted faith. He remarried a few years ago and would travel to games with his wife Daria.
Life goes on. The season is progressing and conference races are starting to take shape, gaining a life of their own. There is still a void in our lives. An emptiness. During these weeks it is hard to deal with the fact George is not with us. Not just as trusted colleague, but a dear, close friend. We lament his loss. Yet we take solace in remembering the smile, enthusiasm and dear friendship he shared with so many.