From Field to Sidelines:When Players Turn to Coaching

Nick McAdam, Staff Writer

Throughout the years, many athletes have arrived to Utica College to leave their mark on the athletic program. Some, however, have continued their Pioneer journey in a coaching role.

Take graduate student Ivon Iton as an example.

Iton finished his Utica basketball career with over 1,000 points, 160 blocks and 120 assists. Last season, Iton earned the Greg Roberts Senior Athlete Award for his efforts in his final season with the Pioneers.

Now, the former forward and center has decided to come back to UC in order to receive his doctorate in physical therapy while also contributing as an assistant coach to the men’s basketball team.

“I still have this obsession and drive for the game but in a different way now,” Iton said. “Before, I was focused on making sure I was the best physically and mentally to help my team and teammates, and now I just continue to increase my basketball IQ to help my team out and get them better.”

As a result of Iton’s contributions as a player last season, the Pioneers finished 17-10 in the regular season. The Pioneers also qualified for the Empire 8 Conference Tournament, where they lost by just a pair of points to Nazareth College in the final round.

As for Iton, the native of Ossining, New York, is not looking for further coaching opportunities in the future. Instead, Iton wants to finish his degree and pursue a career in the physical therapy field.

This is the opposite for other former players such as Matt Rogers, who is the running backs coach for the UC football team. Rogers was a starting quarterback for Utica and pursued a degree in journalism. He consistently was named to the Empire 8 President’s List with a 3.75 GPA or higher.

Rogers is seeking a profession within college football, a field that he suggests is very tough to get into and is one of the reasons he decided to come back to Utica.

“I decided to come back to Utica because it was an opportunity to get into the coaching profession,” Roger said. “It is so difficult to get a job in college football and I was lucky enough to have been given an opportunity to stick around.”

On the sideline, Rogers is helping guide the current football team to a 5-4 season with one game left to go against Hartwick College on the road. Rogers has seen the growth of the football program, as the team will be looking for a potential bowl game with a win in the upcoming game.

I think our program has grown a lot over the past seven years, but we’re still looking to become a more consistently winning football program,” Rogers said. “We’re going for a winning season this weekend at Hartwick, which is important for our program. With a win, we have a potential for a postseason bowl game. Our guys expect to win every time they go out on the field, and we have really tough guys. We’ve lost a couple heartbreakers this year, but our guys show up to work every single day.”

Both Iton and Rogers note major differences between coaching and playing. A theme that stays consistent within the duo is hard work both from the team and the coaching staff.

“During football season, our days are generally around 16 hours a day,” Rogers said. “When you’re a player, you take for granted the scouting reports and information you are given, but as a coach you see how much work is put in by the entire staff to make those things possible.”