Jeff Conarroe graduated cum laude from Colorado College in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and as a three-year letter winner in basketball for the Tigers. As a player, they called him Con. Now they call him Coach.
On June 2, 2020, Conarroe returned to CC as the new head coach for the men’s basketball team. He’d spent the previous nine seasons at CSU Bakersfield, the first eight as an assistant coach before his promotion to associate head coach prior to the 2019-20 campaign.
“It was billed as us coming home,” Conarroe says. Both he and his wife, the former Mary Everett, graduated from CC and have always thought of Colorado as home. “It’s really more than that, though. We had a good situation in Bakersfield. But a lot of things here just really fit not only the style of ball I want to coach, but the things going on at CC aligned with my personal philosophy.”
Conarroe has spent his career in coaching focused on creating opportunities for first-generation students. “I want to use basketball to provide access and upward mobility,” he says. “The renaissance going on at CC, the changes that are being made, that’s what brought me back. It fits me and the program I want to coach in.”
When asked about his days playing for CC, Conarroe states that it was a totally different experience to what current Tigers have. With the college competing as an independent school at the time of Conarroe’s tenure as a student-athlete, his memories are filled with long bus rides all over the Midwest (one in which there was a collision with a cow!) and nights of sleeping five or six players in a single hotel room. But the friendships? Those are what last. “You form a stronger bond with your teammates. It’s different than any other kind of friendship.” Conarroe knows that his time playing for CC completely shaped who he is as a coach. “Division III athletics was a complimentary and critical piece of my education.”
“I’m not sure I’ve met a coach who is so clear on his why – why he coaches, why he is here at CC, why basketball matters as a pathway” says Lesley Irvine, CC Vice President and Director of Athletics. “Everything relates big picture. Then you think about him as a CC alum, it’s so special. Jeff’s ability to coach life and growth through the vehicle of basketball is incredible. His impact at CC is so far beyond coaching the sport he loves.”
And so, three years ago, Conarroe returned to take the helm of a program that gave him so much. He points out multiple former teammates and classmates that he has seen flourish since their days at CC. “I’ve watched them really leverage their degrees to succeed in life. I know it can be done and that’s what I want to help provide for these guys now,” he says. “If we – if basketball – can be a conduit and a catalyst for them, then we’ve done our job.”
“Coach Con is a leader that leads by example and is always putting us in situations where we not only have to grow as players but also as people,” says junior center, Adrian Price. “He has given me an opportunity to not only play college basketball but be exposed to different people and situations that have helped me grow in more than one way. If I had to describe him with a few words I would say selfless, compassionate, and fearless.”
So what is Conarroe’s main priority as a coach? “That’s easy,” he says. “The growth of our student-athletes and staff.”
When asked what his players would say his coaching style is like, Conarroe laughs. “They’d say I’m crazy. But they know I love them and that I have their best interest at heart.” He stresses that love and empathy is a big part of their team. He works hard to instill these vital life skills in the young men who come through his program.
“Coach Con embodies CC and its mission, in every facet,” says Matt Streich, CC Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach. “When you think about ‘fit’ between a coach, athletic department, and an institution, Coach Con and Colorado College are a perfect fit, especially in this very transformative and critical period for the college. On this campus, he is far more than just a coach. He is a leader and influential ambassador. He represents the interests of CC as well as anybody. As a coach, he is the ideal mix of love and accountability rolled into one person. His vision has proven to provide access to an elite education for young men who otherwise would have never had the opportunity, nor even heard of Colorado College. Coach Con gives our players and staff every ounce of himself every single day.”
When asked what one of his favorite memories has been so far since taking the coaching job at CC, Conarroe happily admits that, ironically, it was during the heart of Covid. “We set up a weight room and hoop in the lobby of Bijou West. The top of the backboard was pressed against the ceiling, so there was no room for big shots or anything, but those guys will never forget that time together. Once the snow melted, we were able to get out and practice in the parking lot. That whole period of time – we definitely built a strong community through that.” His other fondest memory? Last year’s huge win against Trinity.
There’s a lot that Coach Conarroe is looking forward to this coming season, but above all, he says it’s the big steps forward his players are going to take as a team that excite him the most. “I’m looking forward to watching this group take ownership of this program,” he says. “We’ve really built a good culture here, but the best teams are player-led. They bought into this vision, they’ve earned this. There are big moments on the horizon and I’m looking forward to seeing them go get them.”
In the recent SCAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Tiger Men’s Basketball was predicted to finish third in the conference this year. But those who see what’s happening on the court at Reid Arena, and know Coach Con and the strong team he’s leading, know there’s definitely much bigger potential this season. The Tigers open the 2023-24 season with an exhibition game on the road Monday, November 6, at Northern Colorado. Their first home game is Saturday, November 11, against Nebraska Wesleyan. SEE THE TIGER’S SEASON SCHEDULE.