When Daryl Roper resigned as the Crossroads boys basketball coach last week, he called his resignation ’’the end of an era.’’For 16 years Crossroads had a program that was the envy of opponents. There was one successful season after another, a couple of players advancing into the NBA, the construction of an on-campus gymnasium as part of a larger venture that included a soccer field and swimming pool, league and CIF championships and one state title.Then it all fell apart as an inexperienced Crossroads team went 2-18 this season and Roper came to the conclusion the job wasn’t right for him anymore. “I’ve never been in that situation before’’ he said. “It was a learning experience for me and when the season ended, I examined whether I wanted to continue. The answer is I want to teach players who have an expectation of going further in the sport.“I’m going to devote myself now to developing the talents of youngsters in non-profit agencies — primarily ’’A Place Called Home’’ and ’’Rising Stars.”He’ll coach on the AAU level rather than at a high school.Baron Davis (UCLA, Golden State Warrors) and Austin Croshere (Providence, Indiana Pacers) were Roper’s Crossroads pupils who went on to college and then became established in the NBA. Davis funds youth basketball activities and Roper will be working with him.“Baron wants youngsters to have the same opportunity he had,’’ said Roper. “He feels very strongly about that.”Roper explains what happened to his Crossroads dynasty.“The school is getting so big,’’ he said. “It’s so competitive to get into Crossroads now. We had some talented freshmen on this year’s team but they were too young to carry a varsity team. I look for improvement but it will be a challenge to reach the level we achieved.“Going into the season I knew it would be a struggle. But nobody knew how much of a struggle it was going to be. The players were young and as the losses mounted there was a loss of confidence.’’Many of the defeats were one-sided and there were a couple of non-competitive games against league rival Brentwood.Roper took a month off during the season to gather his thoughts, then came back to finish the schedule.“There’s also the factor of other schools in the area becoming stronger in basketball,’’ he said. ’’It’s all become so much more competitive.”Roper will continue teaching at Crossroads and has two children in the school, one a member of the girls’ volleyball team and the other a second grader.“For sure, dad will be at the volleyball games rooting the team on,’’ he said of himself.Roper wishes the basketball team and the new coach well.“My life’s blood has been in that program for 17 years,’’ he said. “Of course I hope Crossroads basketball is successful.”In local basketball circles there has been much discussion about the program faltering just a few years after the new gymnasium was built. The impression is that the administration could have done more — perhaps awarding scholarships — to keep the program strong. But that didn’t happen.“I don’t believe it was intentional on anyone’s part to see the program decline,’’ said Roper.The present isn’t bright and the future is uncertain, but Roper looks back with pride on the past.“In my first year as head coach in 1989, it was so fresh,’’ he recalls. “I had been an assistant at Crossroads in 1982 before I left to continue my playing career. Just four years after I came back, we won the CIF championship with Austin Croshere. It was what coaching was all about.”Four years later, Davis led Crossroads to a 31-3 record and a state championship.Roper recalls some other players who were special to him.“There were Lucious Allen’s son, Isaiah Fox, Felipe Williams, Norm Nixon Jr., Jordan Rambis and so many more,’’ he said. “Our teams stood for togetherness and there was a strong sense of community pride.’’Maybe there will be again, but today it seems a long way away.
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