Legendary Bellarmine aquatics coach, winner of 59 CCS titles, dies in his sleep

View Original Notice ? Legendary Bellarmine aquatics coach, winner of 59 CCS titles, dies in his sleep

Four years ago, in his 48th and final season coaching aquatics, Larry Rogers went out on top. His Bellarmine swimming team reclaimed the Central Coast Section championship after its streak of 31 consecutive section titles ended the previous year.

“It’s time to stop teaching and get on with other things,” Rogers said that May afternoon in Santa Clara.

Rogers is being remembered this week for unprecedented success as a swim and water polo coach, as well as many years teaching world history. He died in his sleep Wednesday night, Bellarmine president Chris Meyercord announced in a letter to the school’s community Thursday. He was 74.

“We are all heartbroken at the loss of Larry,” said longtime Bellarmine football coach Mike Janda, who retired from coaching last year.

No coach has captured more California Interscholastic Federation section championships than Rogers. He won 59 CCS titles — 34 in boys swimming, 25 in boys water polo. He won two water polo championships at Monta Vista in 1975 and 1980, and all 57 of his other titles came at Bellarmine, beginning in 1982.

“Legend is thrown around a lot, but he’s a super legend,” said Mark Tennis, the longtime editor of Cal-Hi Sports and a state high school sports historian. “There are some totals there that are mindblowing — 59 section championships. The second-best is 45 and then it goes to 37.

“I know he was regarded at Bellarmine for more than all of his numbers. A teacher and a leader of young men is probably the No. 1 thing. But he’d be on their Mt. Rushmore at Bellarmine for anything.”

Danny Dye, Palo Alto High’s swim coach, wrote an essay in memory of Rogers after hearing of the coach’s passing. Dye shared what he wrote with local media outlets, including the Bay Area News Group.

He called Rogers a friend, mentor, teacher and legend.

“I cried today not just at his passing, but at the moment in time that came to my mind when I found out we had lost him,” Dye wrote.

In his essay, Dye remembered the 2014 season when he thought he had the team to finally end Bellarmine’s championship run.

“We were going to be the one that broke the streak,” Dye wrote. “And boy did we have our chance. Sadly his veteran club stepped up on day two, and reclaimed their title. It was heartbreaking. As I always do, I went to congratulate him.

“He looked at me and said, and I’ll never forget this, ‘If we had lost it would have been ok because it would have been to Palo Alto, if I’m ever going to lose I want it to be to you!!’ This legend, saying those words meant the world to me.”

Dye summed up Rogers’ achievements by writing that he amassed an “amazing number” of record-holders, All-Americans, national-ranked athletes and league championships,

“His accomplishments in the Bay Area dwarfed those of the De La Salle football team in their hey day!!” Dye wrote, “Pick the level, there will never be a coach at any level in the Bay Area to accomplish what this man did.”

In 2016, after 31 consecutive CCS swim championships, Gunn ended Bellarmine’s streak.

Bellarmine College Preparatory swimmers pose of the awards stand with Bellarmine coach Larry Rogers after winning the boys division at the 2017 Central Coast Section Swimming and Diving Championships finals at the Santa Clara International Swim Center in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, May 13, 2017. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) 

In 2017, days after being recognized at an event for Bellarmine’s retiring faculty, Rogers led his swimmers to another section championship.

He was honored at that meet with a lifetime achievement award.

“It’s all about the kids,” Rogers told the Bay Area News Group that day. “And the kids — today, yesterday — they swam the best they could. Whether we win or lose, it doesn’t matter. Obviously, we want to win, but it’s just a matter of the kids performing, and we’ve always performed at the highest level. And that’s all that matters.”

In his letter Thursday to the Bellarmine community, Meyercord noted what Rogers wrote at the time of his retirement — “that the most important part of his Bellarmine experience was working with the Jesuits who taught him that ‘it was ok to reach for the stars, and if you failed, you learned from the loss, and if you were successful, to handle your success with humility.’”

Rogers added, according to Meyercord, “my life has been lived by values I learned from my parents, coaches, and teammates. To work hard, be honest, give everything you have, always be on time, support and work with your teammates, and respect all opponents and situations. If you can do all those things, good things will happen and if not, you will learn something about yourself and the situation. Failure is not a bad thing, it is another chance to succeed and learn.”

Rogers is survived by his wife, Nancy, and their children, Brook and Drew.

View Original Notice ? Legendary Bellarmine aquatics coach, winner of 59 CCS titles, dies in his sleep