Rodney Billups sits fourth all-time in assists (418) at DU.
Rodney Billups sits fourth all-time in assists (418) at DU. (Joe Amon / The Denver Post)

Back in 1995, Chauncey Billups put basketball in Colorado on the map. For the past six years, his younger brother Rodney Billups has kept it there behind the scenes.

Now it's his time to shine in the spotlight as the new head coach of the University of Denver men's team.

Not many people know Rodney, 33, helped shape the University of Colorado men's basketball program under Tad Boyle's direction for the past six years. Now, that lack of recognition has a chance to change.

As Boyle's director of operations and then assistant coach, Rodney was directly involved with recruiting and training players to be the best athletes they could be.

Now Rodney's taking his talents back to the place where it all started for him. From 2002-2005, Rodney served as the Pioneers' point guard. In his three short years, he passed and robbed his way into the history books, where he sits at fourth all-time in assists (418) and fifth in steals (154).

He has an arsenal of experience to utilize as he starts the next step of his career.

First and foremost, he hopes to impart the values he learned from his time at CU on his own athletes.

"I'm definitely going to go with the defense and rebounding philosophy," he said.

"That's what I know, that's what coach Boyle kind of instilled in our staff and in our players for that six years I was in Boulder, so it's easy and I'm comfortable with that."


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For now, though, he and his staff are just trying to get the Pioneers up to speed with their new style of play.

"They're learning a whole different style of play, both on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive side of the ball," assistant coach Ricardo Patton said. "But they have really embraced what coach Billups is trying to teach them and they're getting better each day."

Patton has had his fair share of experience in the head coaching sphere after spending 15 years at the helm of two different programs, including 12 years at CU (1996-2007).

From what he's seen of the new head coach so far, he's confident that he's the right man for the job.

"He's got a great basketball mind, and I guess he's been like a sponge his entire life when it comes to basketball," Patton said. "He's absorbed so much information from a number of different coaches, so it's been exciting to work with him. He's actually trying to teach an old dog some new tricks."

Right now, the Pioneers have a lot of work to do to get up to speed with Rodney's new up-tempo, defensive-minded style of play. With their former coach, Joe Scott, they operated under the Princeton offense, which is a whole different ballgame than what Rodney's trying to accomplish — literally.

"It didn't require as much as athleticism as what coach Billups is doing now," Patton said. "But they do seem to have a very high basketball IQ, and obviously they're doing a great job in the classroom. So there's some smarts there. They'll continue to get better at the change."

Although the fan buzz surrounding the program has grown exponentially since the announcement of Rodney's new position, he downplays his role in it.

"The excitement was, with me, higher. But it's never been about me. This program is always going to be bigger than just me." he said. "My job is to make these kids better people, graduate them and make them better basketball players. That's all I care about. I don't care about the energy or the excitement around me."