Courtland Rojeck could not keep his family decision secret any longer, even though our current circumstances prevented him from saying farewell to his players and job of leading Millennium girls basketball in person.
Monday morning, Rojeck met with the Tigers players in the Zoom app to let them know he was stepping down as coach after building the program into one of Arizona’s best during his 11 years. Rojeck wrote he is not leaving for another school or job, but to bring his family closer together in Northern Ohio.
He wrote about the difficulties he and his wife, Jocelyn, endured after their fourth child, Grace, was born in 2019 with a cleft palate. Rojeck took medical leave in the fall in preparation for her surgery, which he wrote went well.
Also, he wrote, his father is facing some health challenges and lives with most of the rest of the family in Cleveland. Courtland and Jocelyn decided to move to Ohio in January, and the transition is underway.
“Fortunately, last weekend we moved the family back. Since school was remote and my wife was given permission to work remotely, I helped move them back already,” Courtland Rojeck stated in a Twitter interview Monday. “I then flew back to Arizona in hopes I’d be able to meet with the girls face to face and also hoping we could have our banquets. But with COVID-19 I don’t think that is going to be the case, which is why I zoomed a meeting with them today.”
Rojeck arrived at the Goodyear program in 2009 and took over a winning squad. The first two years were tough but by 2011-12 the Tigers were on the scene in the upper echelon of Arizona’s big-school division.
The next year the program went a round further, knocking out growing Westside rival in the first round before losing to Mesa Dobson in the second. Dobson also sent home a 27-4 Millennium team in 2013-14 but the Tigers now were among the 10 best girls basketball schools in the state.
Then in 2014-15, a Millennium team lead by senior guards Quynne Huggins and Passionate Amukamara and junior dynamo Rania Perez went 28-4 and knocked out Valley Vista in the quarterfinals. Then the Tigers stunned defending state champion and top seed Phoenix Desert Vista 52-43 in the semifinals to reach the program’s first state title game.
“One other game that would really stand out a lot is when we upset Desert Vista (Kristine Anigwe and Sabrina Haines) to advance to our programs first ever state title game. That game stands a out a lot because Desert Vista was nationally ranked and Anigwe (currently in the WNBA) and Haines (currently at Kentucky) were the clear favorites that year,” Rojeck said.
Once again though, Dobson played spoiler in a bitter 58-49 title game defeat for the Tigers.
The final five years of Rojeck’s tenure would focus on two things, the rivalry with Valley Vista becoming the best in the state and the quest for that state title.
Millennium and Valley Vista moved into the same region. The Tigers swept the series in 2015-16 only to see Desert Vista return the favor in a second-round upset.
In 2016-17 the Monsoon and the Tigers won on each other’s home court. Then a very young Millennium team made its second state title game and faced Valley Vista, with Rachel Matakas’ veteran squad eventually salting away its first state title 44-36.
“I think any time you have a great rivalry just 30 minutes down the street is going to make your program good if you are competitive in any way. The competition has allowed both programs to flourish into powerhouses as we love to see each team beat anybody but each other. The two programs alike feel we always have to prove ourselves to the rest of Arizona,” Matakas stated in a Twitter interview Monday. “He is going to missed and I know the program is going to miss him as well but he has a strong core coming back that will keep the tradition alive.”
Another regular season split and Millennium earning the No. 1 seed in 2017-18 portended a finals rematch. But fifth seed Phoenix Xavier Prep stunned the Tigers in a semifinal upset nearly as big as Millennium over Desert Vista three years before.
With Canyon View High School opening somewhat nearby, Millennium went down to a 5A enrollment. But Matakas and Rojeck made sure the state’s best girls basketball rivalry continued near the end of the regular season.
“Also, the rivalry with Valley Vista will always hold a special place in my heart. It was always great competing against Coach Matakas and her program,” Rojeck stated.
Millennium saw all its dreams come true in 2018-19. The Tigers went 4-4 in elite tournaments against out-of-state powers and 22-0 against Arizona teams.
That included a convincing 13-point win at Valley Vista and a dominant 66-40 5A finals pasting of Gilbert to take home the program’s first state title.
Senior Jasmine Singleton said she is happy Rojeck was her coach and AP government teacher and that he helped her grow.
“Coach Rojeck is a unique basketball coach because he cares about his players like we are his own children. On and off the court he always makes sure the team is taken care of, from bringing us breakfast on morning film sessions to ordering us pizza whenever we ask for it he is truly one of the most caring coaches I’ve played for,” Singleton stated in an email. “When I first heard he was resigning there was part of me that was surprised and part of me saw it coming. Playing for him for these last few years we knew about his family and about his dad so there was always a thought about when he was going to stop coaching but now it is the reality.”
This year’s team repeated in a 59-30 rout of Sunrise Mountain. 5A champion Millennium hosted 6A champion Valley Vista in the state’s best game and the Monsoon squeaked by the Tigers 43-42. No other Arizona team made Millennium sweat.
And Rojeck did not tell his team this was the last year at Millennium.
“My first thought was, I didn’t want the girls to know because I didn’t want the rest of this season to be a ‘farewell tour.’ I wanted them to continue to focus on the goals ahead of us,” Rojeck stated. “From a personal standpoint, it was emotional when I knew to myself this was my last game against Valley, or this is my last home game, or final practice or when we won the state title that this was it. But it didn’t change anything preparation wise because the goal was to make sure the girls finished the year the right way, as state champs.”
Rojeck stated that assistant coaches Tamika Stukes, Joe Lee, Tracey Grimsley and Regina Wilkerson have all played special roles in lifting the program.
He said he does not plan to interject himself into athletic director Remigo Gordillo’s search for his replacement.
“Coach Tamika has been my assistant for the last 11 years and I fully expect her to continue to be a part of the program and help with the transition. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes because I know Mr. Gordillo will do a great job with the interview and hiring process and ultimately he will decide what is best for the program moving forward,” Rojeck stated. “However I think any candidate should strongly consider any returning coach on staff, but at the same time have the freedom to make the decision that they feel is best.”
While most of his time going forward will be in Ohio, Rojeck said he plans on being out in Arizona for a bit more to tie up some loose ends and help the family house on the market.
But there is one trip he cannot wait to make when COVID-19 restrictions lift.
“However if and when we can have a banquet, I will fly back out to Arizona immediately,” Rojeck said.