"A Perfect Fit"

Sergio Rouco is a veteran of coaching. Just don't call him a vet.

He isn't a fan of the designation, frankly. The term "vet" implies an older coach, a coach with grey sprinkled throughout his hair, barring there is much hair left. Wrinkles. Sage advice. Years and years and years in a carousel of a profession.

Rouco, 50, doesn't feel his age or the years he has put into coaching. And he has a full head of hair, for those wondering. Actually, he is as energetic as ever. His two kids have something to do with that, namely his 2-year-old.

"I'm not very happy being the veteran," Rouco said. "You know what? I get a laugh out of it, because I've been in (coaching) such a long time. It goes fast, man. Time goes fast."

But whether he likes it or not, Rouco is exactly that for Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy -- the veteran coach, the go-to collaborator on a completely overhauled coaching staff also including Bill Armstrong and Al Pinkins.

"I'm here to make it as easy as possible, that coach can go on that court and win ballgames," Rouco said, his new office all but bare inside the team's practice facility. "That's what I'm here for."

Sergio Rouco
File Photo
Rouco was hired earlier this month, bringing his 24 years of coaching at the high school, college and international levels to the bench.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Rouco has been in Kennedy's shoes. He has faced similar pressures.

Rouco was the head coach at Florida International for five seasons, and was also twice an assistant at the school. He even spent a season on the staff of Billy Gillispie, when Gillispie was the head coach at UTEP.

He understands the demands of the job.

"Sometimes you try to put everything on your shoulders." Rouco said. "I've been where coach has been, and you try to do everything on your own. You feel that if you don't do it yourself, then it won't get done the right way. You want to get it done right. I think it alleviates a lot of responsibilities on him."

Armstrong will coach the guards, Pinkins the post players. Rouco, meanwhile, will oversee both, as a head coach would do. In practice, "(Coach Kennedy will) be on one side, I'll be on the other side," Rouco said -- a perfect match.

"Having games under your belt as a head coach, it's another set of eyes, another guy that can motivate you as a head coach in a certain way or pick you up or bring you down or whatever," Rouco said. "But my job is to keep coach even-keel; to take away as many headaches from him, that what he has to do is coach."

Ole Miss was the right job at the right time for Rouco, a Miami, Fla., native. He spent last season as the head coach of the Marinos de Anzoategui in Venezuela, far from his roots in college. He enjoyed the work, and the money was good. "But I love America, man," he said.

When Kennedy called, Rouco showed immediate interest. He said he was drawn to the direction of the program, Kennedy having led Ole Miss to four 20-win seasons in his five years as head coach. And he saw a team close to being a contender for the NCAA tournament.

Ole Miss was 20-14 overall a year ago, its season ending with a first-round loss to California in the National Invitation Tournament.

"It was a perfect fit," he said. "I'm blessed. There's not many jobs of this caliber around, and I'm just fortunate to have been chosen by coach and that he has the confidence in me that I can help him take this program to another level."

Now begins the process of building relationships with the players and guiding them not only on the court, but off the court as well -- a part of the job Rouco embraces with great affection. Rouco was the only member of his family to obtain a college degree.

"I think one of my biggest pluses is my relationship with players," he said.

But don't expect an old-timer's approach.

"My family, they're so excited about being here. We're very, very happy and fortunate to be here."

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