Former girls hoops' assistant Rodi named Aurora's head boys basketball coach
He had an opportunity to become a head coach at other schools.
However, Greg Rodi couldn’t see himself being anywhere else.
Fortunately, his patience has paid huge dividends.
That’s because Rodi will get his opportunity after all. And that opportunity will come at a place he calls home.
Rodi was named the Greenmen head boys basketball coach at a board of education meeting July 27. Rodi, 48, spent the last two years as the junior varsity head coach of Aurora High School’s girls basketball team. Prior to that, Rodi was the head coach of the eighth-grade girls basketball team at Harmon Middle School.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Rodi said. “To live in this community and work in this community has really been a blessing. I’m really humbled and honored to have this opportunity.”
Rodi, who works as an insurance agent in Aurora, spent the last two years learning the nuances of the game from head girls basketball coach Erika Greenberg. All Greenberg has done is turn the girls team into a powerhouse. She led the Greenmen to their fourth consecutive Suburban League American Conference title during the winter.
“I turned down two head coaching jobs because I felt I could learn more from Erika,” Rodi said. “It’s more than X’s and O’s with her. It’s how she runs the program. Her preparation before games is second to none.”
Unlike the girls team, which reached Division I regional play for the first time in school history during the 2018-19 season, the boys team hasn’t been nearly as formidable.
Playing in the rugged American Conference, the boys team finished 7-17 during the winter. However, Aurora won its first postseason game and reached district play for the first time in many years the previous season.
“I’m not thinking long-term rebuild,” Rodi said. “We have some talented kids coming back. I’m really excited.”
Rodi was told he would be named the Greenmen’s head boys head basketball coach in June. Thus, Rodi has been able to not only meet with his future players, but also do summer workouts with them.
These workouts were approved once statewide lockdowns were lifted due to the deadly respiratory tract infection known as COVID-19.
“I’ve said this for many years: The Aurora City School district is great with protocol and guidelines,” Rodi said. “This is no different. We have been able to do some things in the gym. We’ve had some restrictions. I’ve gotten to know them a little bit. They’re great kids, they’re smart and they work hard.”
Rodi replaces T.J. Henderson, who was Aurora’s head coach the previous three seasons. Henderson’s contract was not renewed after the 2019-20 season.
“We look forward to Greg leading our basketball program,” Aurora athletic director Paul Powers said. “He has great ideas for the total K [kindergarten] through 12 basketball program in Aurora.”
Rodi did not grow up in Aurora. Nevertheless, this small town in Portage County is a place he calls home — first, last and if everything goes as planned, always.
“I’ve spent the last 14 years living in Aurora,” Rodi said. “I plan on being here for a while. It’s not a stepping-stone position. It would be nice if this was my first and last head-coaching position. Living in Aurora, I’ve met great people at all levels.”
It may seem far-fetched to his detractors, but Rodi has a rather ambitious long-term goal for his new team.
It has something to do with Friday night lights on the gridiron.
“I want to build the program from the ground up,” Rodi said. “I’m the optimist. It starts with the culture. We understand that culture wins and not necessarily talent. I want to build the program the same way Coach [Bob] Mihalik has done with the football program.”
Much like the highly successful Greenmen football and girls basketball teams, Rodi is a big believer in stopping the opposition.
“I’m like Erika; I’m a defense-first guy,” he said. “That’s what drew me to Coach Greenberg. We want to be in great shape and compete so it can prepare us for the end of games. We lost a lot of close games last year.”
Interestingly enough, Rodi hopes to mix both football and fútbol when it comes to his new team.
Besides Greenberg, Rodi has picked the brain of longtime coach Ryan Conner, who recently was named Aurora’s head boys soccer coach.
“Ryan has been a mentor from the coaching perspective for the last five years,” Rodi said.
Rodi’s assistants are John Mitchell, who will serve as the varsity assistant coach, Dominic DeMartini, who will be the junior varsity head coach, and Deion Morrison, a recent Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy graduate who will lead the freshmen team.
“Sometimes freshmen coaches don’t get the credit they deserve,” Rodi said. “I believe they are a valuable piece of the program. They do the dirty work. They do a lot of fundamentals. I’m excited to have some new faces, along with some familiar faces, in the program.”
Rodi plans to be involved with the Aurora boys basketball program in every way, shape and form. As he mentioned earlier, Rodi wants to build from the ground up.
“One of my favorite things about living in Aurora is being able to coach rec, travel, middle school and high school,” he said. “I’m blessed to see the basketball program grow at all levels.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Faceto_Gannett.