Glencoe, Sports

‘Best Job In The World’: New Trier coach Teri Rodgers collects 600th victory on special night in Winnetka

Out of all the wins to choose from, Teri Rodgers most memorable moment as New Trier’s girls basketball coach came in a loss, according to Eric Duffett, who was on Rodgers’ staff for 11 seasons.

In a 2015 state semifinal, the Trevians were run over by Fremd, losing by nearly 30 points to crush their championship hopes in emphatic fashion. Duffett said what happened in the immediate wake of that loss was unforgettable and exemplifies why Rodgers has reached remarkable success.

“We just got our hearts ripped out. No one really wanted to show up the next day to play basketball (in the third-place game). We felt embarrassed,” Duffett recalled. “The way (Rodgers) … connected with every single person and got them to reset and got us to grieve together and bond through that experience — it was the most incredible display of building a team that I have ever seen.”

The Trevians responded with a gritty 42-40 victory to claim a third-place finish. The moment is one of countless highlights on Rodgers’ resume, and the win is one of 600 in her illustrious career as of Tuesday, Feb. 6, when Rodgers and company bested Maine East to reach the milestone.

Rogders (right) with her daughter Norah and mother Barb following the victory.

Rodgers was stuck on 599 wins for more than two weeks, as New Trier valiantly competed through a challenging four-game stretch, but on Tuesday the result was never truly in doubt. And when the final buzzer sounded, the Trevians community — which that evening included Rodgers family and friends along with New Trier fans and players — burst into celebration in the Winnetka gymnasium.

The moment was emotional for Rodgers, who said the notable win inspired nostalgia about her first New Trier team in 1997 and every program contributor since.

“I think about the first team I had — a special group of women — and to bookend it with this group is just really special,” she said. “All the kids I’ve been fortunate to coach and the people I’ve gotten to do it with, I feel like I have the best job in the world, getting to work with kids, getting to coach a game I love and getting to work with the staff I’ve worked with, I’m pretty damn lucky.”

Rodgers was a multi-sport high school star at Libertyville High School before playing hoops at Duke University. Out of college, she became a teacher and assistant basketball coach at nearby Niles North High School before becoming New Trier girls head coach in 1997.

In her 26 head-coaching seasons, Rodgers has averaged 23 wins a year to just 8.7 losses — a winning percentage of 72.5%. Her teams have won at least 30 games five times and have collected 14 regional titles, eight sectional crowns and three state trophies (2001, 2004, 2015).

Rodgers is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and earned the IBCA’s Derril Kipp Courage Award in 2023 for her influential role as an ambassador and advocate for women’s athletics. She is a co-founder of the women-centered Grow the Game Showcase.

With signs and banners, New Trier fans congratulate Teri Rodgers on the milestone win Tuesday.

Simply put, Rodgers is a girls basketball giant. New Trier senior KJ Saccaro said the coach’s reputation precedes her in local basketball circles. Saccaro fondly remembers when Rodgers spoke with her mother during a basketball tournament when Saccaro was in seventh grade.

“I was like, ‘What did she say? What did she say?'” Saccaro recalled asking her mom. “I always wanted her approval.”

Saccaro said the coach has not disappointed. She said Rodgers is all about “the process,” preaching doing things the right way on and off the basketball court. It is something Saccaro has appreciated in her time in the New Trier program.

“It’s awesome to be part of her team. … I feel safe being coached by her,” she said. “She’s also all about relationships with her players. She takes the time to build relationships with every player, whether they play the whole game or don’t step foot on the court. … Her office is always open. We spend a lot of time in there. It’s just been great to be coached by someone like her.”

“The process” has always been a part of Rodgers’ coaching profile but hasn’t always been the primary driver of success. She said like most young coaches, when she first started out, winning and competing occupied plenty of mindshare. But it didn’t take long for that to shift.

Rodgers works with her players during a timeout on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

Six hundred wins later, Rodgers will get texts from former players with updates or funny anecdotes. A group of former Trevians recently texted that they were all on a vacation together, and to Rodgers, “That’s what it’s all about.”

“The wins are great. I love to win. I’m competitive,” she said, “but it’s always been about the process and doing things the right way and not just on the basketball court — in the classroom, how we conduct ourselves and how we treat one another.

“The wins are fun, but it’s about the process, about the relationships. … So 600 to me means all these kids I got to coach and all these people I got to coach with.”

Toppling Maine East for No. 600

New Trier’s Sela Klein (2) blocks a shot during her team’s victory on Feb. 6 in Winnetka.

Rodgers made special note of this season’s senior leaders, who played vital roles in getting Rodgers to 600 victories.

In No. 600, senior Sela Klein got the Trevians off and running with 12 of her team-high 21 points in the first quarter. Klein added 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Senior Charlotte Dellin chipped in 13 points with 5 rebounds, while Reese Leahy added 10. Marley Meyers, also a senior, grabbed 7 rebounds, including 5 on the offensive glass. Saccaro finished with 4 points and 3 rebounds. Other seniors are starting wing Erin Floyd and Siena McDermott.

Rodgers said it was special to reach the milestone with this group.

“They are great teammates. I think that’s what makes this group special,” she said. “They’re relationship kids and that’s what is most important to them. They love to play the game and they love to play for each other.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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