Andy LeRoy has the unenviable task of replacing a legend at the helm of the Colorado skiing program.
In this case, however, that legend rarely will be far out of earshot.
Last week LeRoy, hired as the Buffaloes’ 18th head coach in March, took the podium at CU’s winter sports media day for the first time as the leader of the CU program. LeRoy takes over a program run by Richard Rokos for 31 seasons, a tenure that featured eight team NCAA titles and 46 individual championships.
Rokos, though, hasn’t gone far. He remains on LeRoy’s inaugural staff as a volunteer assistant, and perhaps because of his presence, LeRoy says it so far has been a seamless transition.
“(Rokos) is out training with us all the time,” LeRoy said. “We’re excited and charged for it. Use his expertise, use his experience that he has from over the years to try and make this program better. But challenges? There hasn’t been too many yet. It’s a good program that’s been run well for a long time.”
LeRoy won an individual national title for the Buffs while racing for Rokos in 2000 and joined Rokos’ staff at CU in 2002. For the past 15 years, LeRoy has been the head coach at the University of Denver, where he led the Pioneers to six national championships. With Rokos’ retirement, no active coach has won more NCAA titles than LeRoy.
Predictably, LeRoy inherits a Buffs roster with no shortage of talent. Junior Nordic specialist Magnus Boee is set to return after winning 10 of 12 races last year, including a sweep of both Nordic individual championships. Boee was named the national skier of the year.
This past weekend, true freshman Magdalena Luczak and sophomore Cass Gray began competition in the World Cup season in Austria. Gray, a Canadian who won a national championship in the giant slalom, is planning to take a year off from the CU program in order to train for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
LeRoy said he was familiar with most of CU’s skiers when he was hired, given the sport’s close-knit community and the fact he recruited several of them at DU. But he said he has spent the past few months attempting to develop personal relationships with a roster he inherited instead of crafted.
“I think our relationships started completely over after (the hiring),” LeRoy said. “It was meeting every one of the athletes and spending a couple hours getting to know them. It’s different from the time when I’m recruiting an athlete and I’m giving them an offer to come here. I explained to most of them, I inherited them. I want to live up to that commitment that Colorado had made to them, but at the same time it’s got to be about a relationship that I have with them. Very individual, very personal. It’s something that I really enjoy doing from a different standpoint than I ever have before.”
The Buffs’ alpine team has begun training at Copper Mountain, and CU officially opens the season on Jan. 2 at the Utah Invitational.