VALPARAISO, Ind. — A native of Joliet who was a standout on Illinois’ last Final Four team has now seen his coaching career come full circle.
Roger Powell Jr. was named the 23rd head coach in the history of Valparaiso University’s men’s basketball program on Friday afternoon. He replaces Matt Lottich, who was fired after seven seasons with the Beacons in March.
“My family and I are extremely blessed to have the opportunity to come back to Valparaiso University where my coaching career started,” said Powell in a statement released by the school. “Now as the head men’s basketball coach, I have some unfinished business to attend to. It’s time to get to work, so let’s go Beacons!”
It’s a return to Powell’s coaching roots as he started his career on the bench at Valparaiso in 2011 on head coach Bryce Drew’s staff. He remained with the Beacons until 2016, continuing with the head coach at Vanderbilt when he took that job.
In 2019, Powell joined Mark Few’s staff at Gonzaga and stayed with that program for four seasons, including their trip to the national championship game in the 2020-2021 campaign.
“We are thrilled to welcome Coach Powell and his family back to Valparaiso University,” said Valparaiso athletic director Dr. Charles Small in a statement. “His track record of on-court success started during his time as a student-athlete and has continued throughout his coaching career. Coach Powell’s experience at one of the nation’s most successful programs coupled with his familiarity with our institution will serve him well in his new role.
“His faith, family values and high character all reflect those of our University and athletic department. I cannot wait to see our student-athletes flourish under his leadership.”
A native of Joliet, Powell was a first-team All-State selection in his senior year at Joliet West High School before moving on to Illinois, where he was part of one of the greatest eras in program history. The Illini made the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons in Champaign and advanced to the Final Four in 2004-2005 in St. Louis.
In the national semifinals that year against Louisville at the Edward Jones Dome, Powell had 20 points and five rebounds as the Illini defeated the Cardinals 72-57 to advance to what is so far the Illini’s only national championship game.
Professionally, the forward played in the NBA with the Jazz in the 2006-2007 season while also spending time in the CBA, NBA G-League, and overseas in Italy, Isreal, Spain, France, then Germany.