Sagehens will be on the scene at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. The 2020 Games were delayed for a year due to the pandemic and will begin July 23.
The head coach of men’s and women’s water polo for Pomona-Pitzer Athletics will serve as the first assistant coach for the U.S. men's water polo team.
Representing Team USA in the Olympic Games is a dream come true for Rodriguez. “I have pictures and memorabilia from the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles,” says Rodriguez. “I remember this is the first time I saw the sport called water polo. Team USA won the silver medal and their captain, Terry Schroeder eventually became my college coach and mentor at Pepperdine.”
These Olympic games have been a challenge due to the COVID-19 virus. After the initial shock of the pandemic, Rodriguez says that athletes and coaches did a great job of salvaging their training and preparation. “Through the help of our Head Coach, Dejan Udovicic, most of the players on our roster played abroad in Greece, Italy, Montenegro and Hungary."
This will be Rodriguez’s second appearance at the Olympics; his previous experience was at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Rodriguez has coached at many levels for Team USA and joined the coaching staff in 2014. His role in Tokyo will be different compared to the Rio Olympic Games.
“For these games, I am the first assistant coach and work solely with the senior team. I am more involved in the planning, strategy and programming of our team. Of our final 13 members, five have come up through the system which I coached and several more I have known since they were 10 years old.”
Rodriguez has led Sagehens water polo since 2005 and has amassed 17 SCIAC conference titles; 7 with men’s program and 10 with the women’s program.
Former Sagehen basketball head coach Gregg Popovich will lead the U.S. men’s national team. “Coach Pop” was named to replace Mike Krzyzewski as head coach of the U.S. men's national team in 2015, in preparation for guiding the team from 2017-2020 in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
Popovich began his career as Pomona-Pitzer men’s basketball coach before becoming a five-time NBA champion as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, and three-time NBA Coach of the Year.
Popovich coached the Sagehen basketball team starting in1979 and led the team to a conference title in 1986 before leaving to become an assistant coach with the Spurs in 1988.