Coach Craig Roden, who grew up at Claysville and went to high school at DAR, just won his 100th game as the Delta State women’s basketball coach.
And he is closing in on his 600th career victory.
His 100th Delta State win was also his 400th NCAA Division II victory in the Lady Statesmen’s 66-41 win over Auburn Montgomery last week. He now has 598 career wins.
“When you hang around a long time, good things happen,” Coach Roden said.
He started his college coaching career in 1978-79 as a graduate assistant at Livingston. And he said he had a super mentor in Coach John Kitchens when he coached at Snead in 1980-81.
Coach Roden is 64 and has no plans on hanging up his whistle anytime soon. He still feels good and he still enjoys what he’s doing very much.
“As long as my health is good, I enjoy coming to work every day and I have a good boss to work for, I’ll still be coaching,” he said.
His team is currently 15-5 and in 4th place in the highly competitive Gulf South Conference.
“We had the flu run through us or the record would be a little better,” he said. “It was a couple of weeks ago. It left us shorthanded, but we are back to full strength now and we’re ready to finish this thing out.”
He said they have to win some ballgames, but he thinks they’ve got a pretty decent shot of making the NCAA tournament.
“The Gulf South has always been a good league,” Coach Roden said. “If you look at it from the early 70s and look at how many of its teams have gone on to Division 1 and been successful, you’ll appreciate how strong the league is. We’re talking Jacksonville State, Troy, Southeastern Louisiana.”
The 400 Gulf South wins “is pretty rare air,” Coach Roden said. “Only 2 other coaches have made the 400 mark in the league, Lenny Acuff at UAH on the men’s side and Lloyd Clark at Delta State on the women’s side.”
He said Ed Murphy at West Georgia could have hit 400, but retired at 399
“It’s a combination of things,” Coach Roden said of his incredible longevity. “It’s good health and having good assistant coaches and good players.”
Recruiting is often what causes college coaches to burn out. Coach Roden noted that it gets tougher and tougher every year. The days of finding an unheralded star others have overlooked are just about over.
“Summer ball, AAU ball and travel ball give the kids so much exposure,” he said. “In the 1970s and 1980s, the GulfSouth Conference got Division 1 players that the Division 1 schools simply hadn’t seen. That doesn’t happen now.”
Delta State has 7 regular season games left, then the conference tournament.
“The top 8 make the tournament,” he said. “The top 4 host in the first round. The 4 winners then go to Samford in Birmingham for the play off the first weekend in March.”
Coach Roden said he feels fortunate to have been around the great game of basketball as long as he has.
“I think one reason for my longevity and success are the great lessons I learned in Marshall County,” he said. “You don’t ever forget where you came from.”