Girls basketball: Ron Rossi retires following Holy Family's state title appearance

Mar. 11—Immediately following its Class 4A state championship loss on Saturday night, Holy Family girls basketball experienced one last heartbreak. Head coach Ron Rossi handed out a piece of paper that read, "All things must pass."

After more than half of a century on the court, he decided to enter the transfer portal into retirement.

The 75-year-old, who spent the last 21 years at Holy Family following a 32-year stint at Arvada and Lakewood, said he wished to focus more on his family. Through 53 years, he's worn many hats, primarily as the girls basketball coach with the Tigers, while also dabbling in gymnastics, tennis and softball.

"What a blessing that the last game I coached was in the championship game," Rossi said. "Every coach would love to have that opportunity when they know they're going to retire. I'd have to say that was a real highlight of my career. What's special is we played with all guards, basically. We took a team of small players and made them very competitive."

There has certainly been no shortage of highlights throughout his two decades with the Tigers.

With HFHS girls hoops, he accumulated a 429-97 record and seven state championships. That number ballooned to 599-283 with 17 league titles through his entire basketball coaching career. Sophomore point guard Gracie Ward said that while the team got emotional upon hearing the news in the Denver Coliseum locker room, they had a feeling it was coming.

She said she wouldn't be the player she is today without the two seasons she's spent with him.

"It was a mixture of feelings, to be honest," Ward said. "When it comes to the knowledge of basketball, he is very, very smart. X's and O's-wise, he is just unreal. Especially, for me, as a point guard, I could just go through plays with him and we could pick apart the defense. It was just really fun to do. He just helped me become the leader I am, especially this year with being the one sophomore out there with four seniors. He really helped me learn my role and how to control the pace of the game."

Ward added that while Rossi certainly flexed his strengths through his seemingly endless supply of ultra-talented teams, his impact on the girls game in particular extended far beyond the playbook.

"At school, he would highly promote our games and ask students to come," she said. "He gave every single thing he had just to promote us."

Rossi emphasized his commitment to his girls one last time late Saturday night when he drove to Children's Hospital to check on a player that suffered an injury during the title game. He wouldn't have been anywhere else.

Now, Holy Family will face the tall task of finding a replacement for the legendary coach. Athletic director Ben Peterson knows that won't be easy, but believes the school will see a large influx of coaching applications over the next few months.

"It'd be hard to find people that didn't love Ron Rossi," Peterson said. "You're not going to be able to find another Ron Rossi. That's not going to be anything that we're attempting to do, but his impact with our kids and how they loved him and how everybody in the building loved him, you don't replace that. ... Ron's impact on Holy Family is going to be felt forever. We're grateful for all the great moments that we were able to experience with him."