Girls basketball: Lass brings his passion to Grayslake North
He never lost his enthusiasm for basketball, even in high school when he realized at 5 feet 9 and 145 pounds and with limited skills, his future in the game wasn't bright.
He never lost his enthusiasm even after that rough introduction as a head varsity coach for Grant's girls team in the 1990s.
"Nobody else applied, I think, so I got the job with no experience," Roger Lass said. "That was a train wreck, really, because I didn't know what I was doing."
He's learned. And now, after having last served as a head coach in 2010, the longtime coach in Lake County is ready for the next challenge in his coaching life. Lass was named head girls coach at Grayslake North, replacing Rob Nicoletti, in April.
"I've been doing it a long time and still have the same enthusiasm and love for the game," said Lass, who grew up in Prospect Heights and played two years of basketball at Hersey (Class of 1980).
"Roger was selected from a large pool of candidates," Grayslake North athletic director Tina Woolard said. "His overall philosophy of a strong program approach and leading by example quickly made him a leading candidate for the position. His experience, work ethic and strong relationships with athletes impressed the interview committee. Roger's knowledge of the game of basketball and ability to connect with athletes and improve their skills and drive are a great fit for our program at Grayslake North."
Lass, who's in his 30th year as a P.E. teacher at Woodland Middle School in Gurnee, has spent the last five years as an assistant girls basketball coach at Lakes, the last four under Brian Phelan and the other under Pete Schneider. Before that, he assisted Kelly Perz at Carmel Catholic for four seasons. He served as head girls coach at Grayslake Central from 2007 to 2010, going 46-40 in three seasons. His 2009-10 Rams won 19 games.
Now, he's ready to dive back into the head-coaching word.
"I'm a little crazy," joked Lass, a Lake Villa resident and father of two daughters, ages 20 and 23. "Honestly, I just wanted the opportunity to have a bigger influence on more kids. I loved my time at Lakes and the players and the coaches there, but every coach I think wants to influence as many as they can and have their own ideas about things. I get to do that now from fourth grade on up."
Besides a love of the game, Lass will bring a knowledge of the game. He hopes his passion is enough to influence girls to get involved in the game.
"Job one is to increase the numbers starting from the elementary schools on up and get interest going in basketball at Grayslake North," Lass said. "I think this year we can have a decent year because we have so many girls returning and I know a lot of schools lost a lot of girls. We're going to be very competitive."
Defensively, Lass wants to play an aggressive style with lots of pressing, which should lead to steals and layups.
"Offensively, I want us to be versatile so we don't have only one or two girls that are able to score," Lass said. "We're harder to guard when everybody can score. I think we have the athletes to do that."
Lass was content being an assistant coach. But the Grayslake North job was attractive to him, in part, because of its proximity to Woodland and his home.
"There's only a few schools that I would go to," Lass said. "At my age, I can be a little pickier. I was happy at Lakes. It's basketball."