The Christmas season is usually a time of joy and celebration. This year the time was also added with a touch of sadness. George Rodecker, a good basketball writing friend, passed away on Christmas Eve. George was two days shy of his 65th birthday.
When we met two decades ago, George was heavily involved in NBA draft projections. He analyzed the draft ranking players by each position, a monumental feat that he seemed to handle with the ease of a Stephen Curry jumper.
George also covered college basketball, and we were colleagues and collaborators at times for the likes of Basketball Times, Eastern Basketball, hoopville.com, collegeinsider.com, and collegechalktalk.com. In recent years, George became passionately devoted to the women's game.
About a decade or so ago he wanted to introduce his son Michael to the game. George figured the women's game played below the rim, at a slower pace and with more teamwork and fundamentals was an ideal way to learn the game.
The school nearest to his Orange County, NY home was Marist. It turned out a new coach Brian Giorgis was on board. Giorgis quickly turned the fortunes of the dormant program around. Shedding impartiality George became a Marist devotee.
In 2012, my St. Bonaventure alma mater and Marist were both in the Big Dance. Putting my impartiality aside, my worst nightmare came to pass. Bonnies and Red Foxes in the same bracket. Bonaventure and Marist both won round one and were facing each other for a Sweet 16 berth.
Why couldn't Marist, a program I admired and knew some of the players and coaches, be in another region. Far from my dear alma mater. I had hoped when the draw was announced both schools would be in other areas and would reach the round of 16.
"It's you and me ‘Bonnie boy,'" George said jokingly phoning me the week of the game. The Bonnies prevailed in a tough contest. Never one to gloat I still wouldn't call George for at least a week. I knew how he felt and topping it off; Michael was a student now at Marist and member of the pep band.
As was done with the men's games we frequently traveled to the women's contests. The MAAC women's quarters (starting 9:30 a.m.) in Albany, Chartwell's at St. John's, Seton Hall...great trips with great conversation and usually a cigar. George had a passion for a good smoke as well as the women's game.
He talked collegechalktalk editor Chris DiSano into including a women's section. George wrote it and covered the national scene with grace, insight, and flair. He was chosen to vote on several national panels in women's basketball.
George still followed the draft and the men's game but in latter years, he was enamored with the women's game. His health was failing during the most recent times. He planned to get to more games and team practices but was limited in travel, especially these last two years. The day before our Lord's birthday, George began his eternal life.
We who were fortunate to know him were indeed blessed. We lost a dear friend. A person who was cordial and gracious with all whom he came in contact. The women's game also lost one of its best advocates. A voice in the media who actually believed the women's game exemplified the way the game should be played on all levels. By both men and women.
George loved basketball and women's basketball had a special place in his heart. The love was not limited to his beloved Red Foxes of Marist. Wherever the cadence of a dribble met the floor, George was right at home.
During this holiday season, we truly lost a great friend.