When you’re a coach anywhere for an extended time, let alone more than three decades, it’s easy to take for granted some of the little details that often are handled for you.
Richard Rokos can attest to this.
The legendary Colorado ski coach is just a few months into his retirement after leading the Buffs’ nationally-renowned program for 31 years. Certainly there will be more adjustments necessary going forward on Rokos’ part — like when he watches one of his former skiers, new coach Andy Leroy, leading the Buffs for the first time — but Rokos got the first shock of his post-coaching life when his first cell phone bill arrived in the mail.
Since he first joined cell phone nation, that bill was always the university’s problem. Now Rokos is on his own.
“It’s a time of adjustment. And I’m not fully adjusted,” Rokos said. “I wake up in the morning and think about what to do that day, then I realize I don’t have to do anything today.”
It was a classic no-brainer in May when Rokos, just months removed from his final NCAA Championships as the Buffs’ leader, was named to the 2021 Colorado Athletics Hall of Fame class.
Rokos, who spent 34 years total at CU after starting his time in Boulder with a three-year stint as an assistant, is the third longest-tenured head coach in Buffs history, trailing former gymnastics coach Charles Vavra (32 seasons) and former track and cross country coach Frank Potts (41 seasons). Rokos led the Buffs to eight NCAA team championships and six runner-up finishes at the NCAA Championships. His skiers won 46 individual NCAA titles, including three in his final championship this past March, and they collected a whopping 247 All-American honors. Rokos was named the national coach of the year five times.
“It was obviously a surprise for me,” Rokos said. “I was driving through some ski area and suddenly a phone call, and Rick (George) told me I was inducted. It’s a great honor for me. It’s kind of culminating my career at CU and all the things we were able to do for 30 years. I’m really honored by this whole thing. It was a nice surprise.”
Don’t expect Rokos to be a stranger around CU, beyond the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the fall.
Rokos still is considered a volunteer assistant with the Buffs, but now that he isn’t tethered to the day-to-day responsibilities of running the program, you just might spot Rokos instructing youngsters at some of your favorite Colorado slopes.
“When I retired I immediately got offers right and left,” Rokos said. “I’m still sorting it out. I’m not trying to commit to anything. But I like to help. I’ve helped Eldora with some camps. I did some spring camps at Copper Mountain.
“Life goes on, and it just gets more colorful. Doing 30 years being in the same office, at the same institution based on the same rule book, suddenly the rules are gone. In many ways, I was living in a bubble living as a college coach. I’m now seeing things differently. As a college coach, there is a big infrastructure and everything is available. Suddenly I have to take care of small details like phone bills. Those are the little things I have to adjust to, but otherwise I’m staying in skiing and having a summer full of events.”