Rodney Billups Building The Pioneer Brand

Rodney Billups Building The Pioneer Brand

Photo courtesy of University of Denver Sports Information

University of Denver second-year men’s head basketball coach Rodney Billups is busy building the Pioneer men’s basketball brand. “DU just isn’t that school down on Evans and University. It is an unbelievable institution. Where you can be successful not just in the classroom but on the basketball court,” Coach Billups said.

The new branding started last spring after Billups was hired to replace former DU head coach Joe Scott. Billups started with updating the basketball offices, the locker room and installed a new basketball philosophy. The new basketball philosophy is one that celebrates success is important to Coach Billups. “I am not going to bicker over things as much after a win, as I do after a loss,” Billups stated. “I am going to enjoy the ride along the way. I think our guys enjoyed the fact that we celebrated wins,” said Billups.

While as fun as those things were, there was a bigger decision to be made, hiring the right assistants.  When Billups was hired he was one of the youngest coaches in men’s division one basketball. “It was probably the most important thing that I did when I first got the job,” admitted Billups. He brought in coaching veterans Ricardo Patton and Steve Snell. Patton is a grizzled 30 plus veteran of the coaching ranks with plenty of coaching experience with stops at Middle Tennessee, Arkansas-Little Rock among other as an assistant and at the University of Colorado and at Northern Illinois as a head coach. Snell is a well traveled 28-year coaching veteran with several assistant coaches stops through out the D1 ranks. These two coaching veterans have been giving guidance and teaching Billups and the other assistant coaches the nuances of the college game from summer camps to working with the administration, they have been invaluable.

A big part of building any D1 brand these days in making it to the NCAA Tournament, aka “The Dance”. While it isn’t “The Dance” or bust this year, Coach Billups likes his team’s chances. “We have a chance of being pretty good, we have our core team coming back,” he said.

Another piece of the branding is to keep recruiting Colorado. Coach Billups hinted at the importance of keeping Colorado kids in the state and that it would be helpful to get club and high school coaches on board with DU. “Denver is extremely important to me. I plan on always having Denver kids on my roster. If I have a Denver kid on my team, I’m absolutely going to take care of him. Not more so than any other kid. I am not going to overlook a Denver kid. He was me 15 years ago, “ Billups stated.

Currently, there are six players from Colorado on DU’s roster and senior Jake Pemberton, a Mountain Vista High School alum will be a vital part to the Pioneers success. “ If Jake Pemberton isn’t the most important player for us this year, he is one of them. He truly has that Colorado toughness I look for in recruiting. Has that chip on his shoulder of always being overlooked, and he had a blue collar mentality. He always brings it and because of him he gives me hope in recruiting Colorado kids.“ The Neff brothers,  Thomas and Luke, also got praise from Billups with their work ethic and called the brothers “gym rats.”

While having success on the court is part of building the brand, so is winning off of it.   “I want our guys to get better every day, become better players and better people. Be open to learning and being coachable. That’s the success marked by me. We have four seniors this year, all four of those guys graduate,” said Billups. That’s where I am at success wise. “


Brand buliding can be fun with players buying into a system and the excitment a young fresh voice from the bench. It can also be stressful at times gettting everyone on the same page and setting different standards and procedures. However, Coach Billups is goign to build the brand. “We are going to continue to get better and we are going to continue to grow our brand.  We would like Denver to rally around the home school and have some fun growing the brand,” Coach Billups delcared.