Valparaiso hires Zags’ Powell as hoops coach

Valparaiso has hired Gonzaga assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. as its men’s basketball coach, the school announced Friday.

Powell has spent the past four years as an assistant coach at Gonzaga, helping build the program’s reputation as one of the best in college basketball. The Zags have gone 121-13 over the past four seasons and reached the national title game in 2021.

Powell is an Illinois native who starred for the Illini before a professional career that included a stint with the Utah Jazz and playing overseas in five countries.

There’s a full-circle aspect to Powell’s hire, as he began his career as an assistant coach at Valparaiso from 2011 to 2016. That stint came under former coach Bryce Drew and included the school’s most recent NCAA tournament bids in 2013 and 2015.

“My family and I are extremely blessed to have the opportunity to come back to Valparaiso University where my coaching career started,” Powell said in a statement. “Now as the head men’s basketball coach, I have some unfinished business to attend to. It’s time to get to work, so let’s go Beacons!”

Powell went with Drew to Vanderbilt in 2016 and spent three seasons there as associate head coach before joining Mark Few in Spokane.

“Coach Powell’s experience at one of the nation’s most successful programs coupled with his familiarity with our institution will serve him well in his new role,” athletic director Charles Small said in the statement.

The Valparaiso program, which has nine NCAA tournament bids in its history, has struggled to find its footing since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 2017. In six seasons in The Valley, Valparaiso has yet to finish above .500 in league play.

The school dismissed coach Matt Lottich after a run of three consecutive losing seasons, as he finished his tenure with a 108-117 record in seven seasons.

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