Colleagues, fans mourn Rothrock

Well-liked ex-Liberty coach dies at 48.

|Of The Morning Call

August 6, 2008
Todd Rothrock


Former Liberty High School boys' basketball coach Todd Rothrock (right), passed away Tuesday. (MONICA CABRERA, Allentown Morning Call / March 13, 2008)


Because he was such a well-liked and beloved member of the local basketball-coaching fraternity, several Lehigh Valley Conference coaches talked about getting together and having an informal ''roast'' for Todd Rothrock.

''Several coaches and their wives were going to get together with Todd and his wife in the Bonefish Grill and we were just going to have a good time with him,'' Allen coach Doug Snyder said. ''It was going to be a night to tell stories, have a little fun with him in a relaxed setting, and look back on his career because he was such a good guy.''

Sadly, that little get-together never took place and now the coaching fraternity will come together in the next few days to say good-bye to what they all agree was a first-class coach, teacher and person who did things the right way.

Rothrock, the former Liberty basketball coach, suffered a series of strokes and died on Tuesday afternoon, just a few months shy of his 49th birthday.

He died a little more than five months after leading the Hurricanes to the District 11 4A title and four months after resigning after seven seasons at Liberty.

The numbers show that the former Nazareth High and Moravian College player and coach went 117-73, including 25-6 last season when he was named The Morning Call's co-coach of the year.

But Rothrock's impact went well beyond the wins and losses.

''It's a huge loss,'' Liberty athletic director Sam Senneca said, fighting back tears. ''Todd meant so much to us at Liberty. He impacted so many young lives. Many of our players considered him to be a second father.

''With him I never had to worry about anything, I knew everything would be taken care of. He was a wonderful coach and an even a better man.''

Senneca said that Rothrock had planned to stay close to the program and his successor, Chad Landis.

At Cedar Beach on Tuesday night, Liberty played its last game of the season in the Allentown Summer League with heavy hearts.

Assistant coach Mike Kashner filled in for Landis, who had spent much of the last three days with Rothrock's family at the hospital.

''We wanted to come out and play hard for Coach Rothrock because that's what he would have wanted us to do,'' said 'Canes player Tommy Hoffman, a soon-to-be senior who had tears streaming down his cheeks.

''We're going to dedicate the coming season to him. We'll play with him in our hearts always. He was a very good person. I just wish I would have gotten to know him better.''

And, that's how many of the fans felt at Cedar Beach on Tuesday night.

''He didn't know who I was or my name, but he always said hello,'' said Tony Curto, whose son, Stefano, played at Central Catholic a few years ago.

''He always had the most wonderful smile, which showed everyone how much he enjoyed what he was doing,'' said Karen Smitreski, an Allentown teacher who has a nephew who plays for CCHS.

''He was just a real good guy,'' said Pleasant Valley coach Ken Piontkowski, shaking his head. ''You'd never say anything bad about a person at a time like this, but the truth is, Todd was such a likeable guy. I don't know anyone who didn't like him because he was such a positive person. It's such a shame.''

Several coaches said the same thing about Rothrock, emphasizing that he did things ''the right way.''

''The first varsity game I ever coached was against Liberty and Coach Rothrock,'' Dieruff coach Tom Stoudt said. ''From that first night, he made me feel welcome. With him, it was always about everybody else and he was always so supportive of you. He was just the classiest man.

''I respected him so much. He dealt with a lot of the same issues and situations at Liberty that I deal with at Dieruff and I'd go to him for advice. He became a mentor to me.''

Freedom coach Joe Stellato said that although they coached at rival schools, he and Rothrock were friends.

''He was a better man than he was a basketball coach and he was a great coach,'' Stellato said.

The Allentown League playoffs, which begin tonight, have been dedicated in Rothrock's memory.

''We're in the playoffs,'' Stoudt said. ''But right now, I'm not sure that matters all that much.''