Billups, younger brother of CU alum Chauncey Billups, was named an assistant coach for the men's basketball team last August after working for two years as the basketball operations director, which meant he focused mostly on scheduling and day-to-day needs of the program. Rodney Billups graduated from George Washington High School in Denver in 2001 before going on to play basketball for the University of Denver.
As his first season as an assistant coach begins winding down, Billups says he is proud of what he's been able to accomplish this year under head coach Tad Boyle.
How has the transition from director of operations to assistant coach been?
The transition's been going really well. I've got all the support from the staff, Coach (Tad Boyle) is helping me along. Every question I have for him he answers. Every assignment, he gives me a lot of instruction so the process or transition is going really well so far.
What are the main differences you've noticed between the two jobs?
It's a lot of stress and a lot of hard work and a lot of different type of work than it was for ops (director of operations). Ops was kind of black and white, you know exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it. With this there's so much improv, especially dealing with student athletes and not knowing what exactly they're feeling that day versus the day before. It's just different. It's different.
I think in the ops side you knew what had to be done on each day, and coaching -- like today I had Spencer (Dinwiddie) in for watching film. I had no idea when I woke up this morning that I would watch film with him. It's just so much unknown versus being in ops, you know exactly what you have to do and what needs to be done.
Probably on the fortunate side, there's not as much paperwork (laughing).
How happy are you that you finally get to work directly with student athletes?
It makes it probably 10 times better. My influence, being a player a couple years ago to now, the game hasn't changed that much. So I still know the language. I'm able to put guys in spots and work on their weaknesses from what I see versus a coach that's been coaching for so long. That I think is a huge advantage for me versus the other coaches on our staff and maybe in the country ... it's awesome.
What about the recruiting aspect of your new job?
That's a whole other avenue. Before this year I couldn't really do anything. I was fortunate to go out on the road the last two summers and watch kids but I couldn't really talk to them. I couldn't tell kids that, 'Oh, you're really good if you do that or you do this.' Now I can actually go and evaluate and contact the kids and tell them exactly what we look for and I think I'm good at it. Coach thinks I'm good at it, and that's definitely an important piece to us wining is getting good kids.
So do you consider yourself a big people person, then?
I think so. Yeah definitely, it's easy for me to talk to any type of person. All I do is smile a lot and it works (laughing).
You're relatively young for an assistant coach. Do you feel this gives you an advantage when it comes to talking to athletes?
I just turned 30 on (January) 14th. When I started here at Colorado I was 27, and even then it was like, 'Let's go hang out.' It was easy for them (student athletes) and it still is easy for them to say, 'What do you think about this?' for something that's off the basketball court. That's not something they would say to Coach (Boyle) or the older assistants and that's a huge advantage for me because I just experienced the stuff that they're going through. I mean it was less than 10 years ago I was at DU and going through the same type of adversity they're going through. It's awesome for me to be able to relate to them in that way.
What kind of advice do student athletes come to you for?
Probably just how to be efficient with their time. Guys like to be lazy and hang around the dorms, hang around their apartments, and play video games or just hang out. I think getting them to be able to see the process and the progression of getting out of bed and doing something you like to do versus sitting around and not doing anything. As young people we all want to just hang out and just have fun but if I can build this habit of not doing anything that isn't worth their time, then they'll be successful at whatever they do.
Sounds like you're speaking from experience here?
I think at DU I spent a lot of time wanting to be a Buff and not enjoying the time that I was there. I really didn't have a lot of fun until my senior year at DU, and it was already too late. If they can learn anything through my experience at DU it would be to get in the gym as much as you can, and use your assets because once it's over, it's over. And it's over for me so hopefully they can play longer than I did.
So you're kind of getting a second chance as an assistant coach ?
Even when Chauncey was here I wanted to be a Buff, so having the opportunity to coach and cross the fence, for lack of better words, and give back, it means a lot to me. I'm blessed in this position.
Looking ahead, what's the ultimate goal for you in your career?
I want to be a head coach. Hopefully here when Boyle is done. I don't know if that's short term or long term but I want be a head coach. I want to be great. I don't want to just be a young head coach that has all this potential that doesn't pan out. I want to be great.
What do you see as the steps you need to take to get to that head coaching job?
A lot of hard work. A lot of different philosophies and being able to recruit the best kids. We're only as good as the kids we have, so being a great recruiter, being a personable coach, being a trustworthy coach and a loyal coach -- that all constitutes being a good coach.
How has it been working under Tad Boyle? Do you feel like your personalities and coaching styles complement each other?
I think so. I think both of us are very prideful of Colorado as a state, not just a university, so we get along very well. He's the type that he'll say something and he'll expect it done and he'll just let you work and he'll just let you do it. He respects our opinions, he respects our work, especially our work ethic. It's really been fortunate to have a boss like this especially starting so young and learning the process.
In my interview a couple years ago he said, 'I'm going to help you be a head coach,' and that was the most comforting thing that he ever said, still to this day. He said, 'I'm going to help you.' It speaks volumes if one of his assistants gets the head coach job, so I love him for that.
Do you ever feel like you're living in Chauncey's shadow, or are you paving your own way?
When I was in high school, probably. But no. Our relationship is so much better than the typical big brother relationship. I'm confident in my own self, he's confident in me and my family is right there behind both of us. Not at all. I look at it as more positive than negative.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta