By Sean Savage
It is common to look up to father figures who are masters at their craft. Putnam Vocational (MA) head coach Lou Roe embodies what it means to be a father figure to his team and is considered a Massachusetts legend by many.
“Being a coach is really like being a father. You help dictate them out there and have an impact all along the way,” Roe said.
Before stepping into the head coaching position at Putnam, Roe was a star at the University of Massachusetts. In 1995, he was the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and a consensus second-team All-American. Additionally, he ranks fourth all-time in scoring for UMass, with 1,905 career points. Along with this, Roe and NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving are the only Minutemen to record at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in program history. Roe has his number 15 jersey retired at UMass.
After an exceedingly impressive college run, Roe was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 1995 NBA Draft. Over his two-year NBA career, he appeared in 66 games and scored 130 points for the Pistons and the Golden State Warriors.
After his NBA career came to a close, Roe played professionally overseas: in Spain, the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), Italy, South Korea, Mexico and Argentina. He was named the Spanish League MVP in 2001, and also led the Spanish league in scoring in 2004 and 2006.
His 17 years of professional hoops helped prepare Roe to pursue coaching.
“I understand the steep level of professionalism and have learned to come with the mindset of competing every night,” he said.
But why Putnam? At first, Roe had a private basketball training gig for hoops shortly following his hoops career. However, by the time 2020 rolled around, Roe knew he wanted to step up and make more of an impact.
“The gratification you get from teaching players is unparalleled,” Roe said.
His mission is to teach younger generations the process of stepping into their full potential.
Additionally, Roe sympathizes with his players that the NBA is much different as opposed to high school hoops.
“The NBA was my full-time job,” he said. “These kids are still growing: they have anxiety, they have school, and they are all still growing up.”
Roe helps each player, both on and off the court, grow into whom they are meant to be.
Putnam matched up against Springfield International Charter School (MA) on day one of the 2023 Spalding Hoophall Classic. For the full 32 minutes of regulation, the atmosphere was electric: as so was Roe himself, which contrasted with his calm demeanor during warmups.
Roe was all action from the moment the ball heaved up for tip-off. Putnam got the ball. “Let’s go!” he yelled while flailing his arms. Springfield pressed, and Roe was stomping on the court. “Move the ball!”
On a questionable call, Roe was the first to address it – aggressively. His actions had a ripple effect as both the bench and crowd joined him in his glaring emotional investment.
In a well-fought game on both ends, Springfield International Charter prevailed. Putnam’s junior guard, Andrew Mabry, had an impressive performance – adding 29 points on the night.
“[Each game] I go to war with them. I feel like I am out on the floor with the players; I fight with them,” Roe said.
Nevertheless, like any coach, Roe noted he can not control what goes on out on the floor. He only has influence. He combats this by displaying a tough persona and making his presence known.
“You have to bring your experience,” Roe said. “You have to be a motivator to get the guys to see what you see.”
And that is what he did.
Over the course of Roe’s professional athletic and coaching career, he has touched the hearts of many.
“I do appreciate when people recognize what I have done as a testament to the player I was back in the day,” Roe said. “ I have achieved everything I have wanted to in terms of the game. Nowadays, it is all about them. I am just trying to give back all that was given to me.”
Photo: Nick Storlazzi / The Student