Joey Rodriguez, who helped lead the Rams to the Final Four in 2011, returns in 2017 as director of player development for the Rams.

By Andy Lohman

Joey Rodriguez had to take a circuitous route back to VCU, but the fan-favorite point guard from the 2011 Final Four team is now the Director of Player Development for men’s basketball.

“It’s just cool to be back, it brings back so many memories,” Rodriguez said. “We can take this thing to another level and that’s really exciting.”

After an outstanding career at VCU, where he ranks third in school history in both assists (580) and steals (237), and where he helped steer the Rams to a historic Final Four run in 2011, Rodriguez briefly played professional basketball in Turkey and Puerto Rico. He would then begin his coaching career as the Assistant Video Coordinator at Central Florida.

Following a year with the Golden Knights, Rodriguez dove into the realm of high school basketball, first as an assistant coach at Benedictine in Richmond, then taking the reigns as head coach of his alma mater, Lake Howell High School, in Winter Park, Fla. for the 2015-16 season.

“I learned a lot just being thrown into the fire with a great group of kids,” said Rodriguez of his first head coaching gig.

The experience helped him evolve as he transitioned off the court and onto the sidelines.

“I finally realized that coaching is a lot different than playing,” Rodriguez said. “You just have to let guys go and let them learn from their mistakes. That really helped me with patience because I always thought I’d be fiery, really off-the-wall, up and down the sidelines and I really wasn’t. I was more into my guys and talking to them and trying to motivate them in different ways.”

Now, having coached for his high school alma mater, Rodriguez is excited for the special opportunity to coach for his college alma mater.

“It means everything. [VCU] shaped me into who I am now,” Rodriguez said. “I was a kid here, and I became a young adult here. It’s just special.”

Returning to the Siegel Center also means continuing the relationship he formed with Head Coach Mike Rhoades.

“Rhoades was my guy when I was here,” Rodriguez said. “He was always the point guard coach, so he and I had an awesome relationship.”

After playing under him during his time as an assistant coach at VCU, Rodriguez reunited with Rhoades at Rice in 2016-17, where Rhoades was the head coach and Rodriguez was the Video Coordinator. The Owls notched the school’s first 20-win season in over a decade. Rhoades’ mentorship has made him a role model for Rodriguez.

“What he was as an assistant is what I want to be,” Rodriguez said. “You can get on guys, guys can go back and forth with you, but at the end of the day you respect them and you know at the end of the day he’s going to be there for you.”

Being there for the players is what Rodriguez sees as the most important part of his role as Director of Player Development. Having played at VCU from 2007-11, he knows exactly what the student-athlete experience is like.

“I just want to be here for the guys,” Rodriguez said. “There’s going to come a time of year where they’re tired of hearing from coaches, they’re stressed out. Maybe stuff around campus, stuff at home, and I understand what all that is. So if I can be a guy they can come and talk to and help them get through things, then that’s what I’m here for.”

Basketball has brought Joey Rodriguez around the globe, but now it has brought him back to Richmond, where he electrified college games with skilled playmaking and confident shooting. This time, possibly, for an extended stay.

“It’s been fun but it’s been stressful too,” Rodriguez said of his journey. “Different opportunities come and go, but I’ve only been at places for one year and then left because of other opportunities, so hopefully this is a place I can be for a number of years and grow a little bit more.”