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James Yodice: Ex-Rio Rancho star Rode works to establish a culture at St. Pius

St. Pius High School girls basketball head coach Brio Rode, center , congratulates Marie Kalb , right during the game against Albuquerque Academy on January 14, 2020. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/JOURNAL)

When the phone rang, Brio Rode, by her own admission, was — metaphorically speaking — someplace else.

“I had no intention of coaching girls basketball,” she said. “That isn’t what I wanted to do.”

The former Rio Rancho High standout, and one of the great scoring guards in New Mexico in this century, had her mind set on being a varsity coach, but a boys varsity coach.

Five seasons as a varsity boys assistant to Alvin Broussard at Sandia convinced her she could, and would, someday segue seamlessly as a woman coaching the boys.

But on this day, at the other end of the phone, was Jim Cook, the athletic director at St. Pius X, who was recruiting Rode to coach the Sartans girls.

“This is my mom’s alma mater,” Rode said. “I’m like, Bree, maybe the door is opening again for a reason. I did have to change my mind a little bit and say, hey, let’s try it out.”

The 35-year-old Rode is 5-8 midway through this first season on the West Side with St. Pius after a loss to Grants on Tuesday night.

As Cook and Rode’s mother Charlotte once went to school together, the attempt at pairing Rode with St. Pius was only natural.

Rode is the first new girls basketball varsity head coach for St. Pius since the late 1990s. Phil Griego coached the Sartans for 23 seasons before he resigned to join Cleveland High’s staff as a varsity assistant after the 2018-19 season.

“Before I took the job … I’ve known coach Phil my whole career,” Rode said. “I had lunch with, learned the pros and cons from him.

“For me, I think building the community is a really big deal for us, because our numbers are so low. It’s getting people excited about girls basketball. That’s a big deal for me, the No. 1 priority. I want people to want to come here and I want people to watch us.”

There are only about 20 girls in the program, Rode said. Roughly a dozen dropped away after she got the job.

“Maybe,” Rode said, “this wasn’t for them. I put my foot in the sand and said, this is who I am. The ones that wanted to follow and be on my bus, they’re here.”

Her sell to Cook involved needing time to establish the proper culture.

“It’s gonna take me a little time,” she said with a smile, “but he’s open and receptive to that.”

But what is that culture?

“For me,” she answered, “it’s an ‘us’ culture. That’s hard to instill in our youth right now, because we’re kind of infatuated with ourselves. But it’s working, working harder than the rest, doing things outside the norm.”

Rode fits that mold, and in fact her schedule is incredibly jammed. In addition to her new coaching duties at St. Pius, she also is a mom to 8-year-old Amiyah, and Rode also is heavily involved in the Student Athlete Headquarters Academy (SAHQ) in Albuquerque, a nonprofit where she does plenty of instruction and training.

Rode, who began her college playing career at Cal and finished it at San Francisco State after graduating from Rio Rancho in 2004, said she has learned much from all her coaches. This includes her Rio Rancho coach, Bob McIntyre, and current Cibola coach Lori Mabrey, whom Rode still calls coach Stephenson, which was Mabrey’s last name at the time.

“I think Bree is going to do a great job, and I’m super excited that she is moving over to the girls side of things,” Mabrey said. “She’s very demanding, but she knows what she wants, and she knows how to get a team there.”

Rode said St. Pius didn’t have a traditional offseason schedule; rather, she said, she focused on training and teaching.

“Fundamentally,” she said, “we were having to learn a lot of lessons, but I would not have traded that.”

Rode actually won a varsity boys game as the head coach at Sandia, against Mayfield almost exactly five years ago after Broussard had to sit out a one-game penalty for being ejected. She coaches like she played, and is meticulous about piecing together her own program. Chief among the needs is patience, but her competitive nature works against her, she admits.

“I have a list of about a thousand things I want to do, and I get impatient because I want to do all of them at the same time,” she said. “In reality, it’s going to take a few years to build a community the way I’d like to build it. It’s not a sprint. It’s definitely a marathon.”

WADDELL: Cibola’s girls could be without one of its standout senior guards, Adamari Waddell, for an extended period of time.

Waddell was hospitalized for several days over the weekend after a blood clot was found on her lung.

She was released, but was back in the hospital on Wednesday after a complication, and doctors are working to learn the source of the problem, Mabrey said.

Cibola has a key District 1-5A game on Thursday night at Volcano Vista, a team that had been without sophomore guard Jaelyn Bates for a few games after she suffered a concussion during the metro tournament. Bates returned on Tuesday night against Cleveland.

THIS AND THAT: A huge shout out to the Rio Grande High girls basketball team. The Ravens last weekend beat Albuquerque Academy 44-40, ending a massive, 65-game losing streak that dated to Feb. 14, 2017. I’ll be writing more extensively on the Ravens in my column next week. … The National High School Athletic Coaches Association has named Eldorado’s Roy Sanchez as a Coach of the Year finalist. … With losses last week by Piedra Vista’s girls and Hot Springs’ boys, only three unbeatens remain in New Mexico: the boys from Magdalena and Cleveland, and the girls from Hobbs. Magdalena, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, has a big road game coming up next month at top-ranked Pecos, the defending state champion in that division.


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