Author Topic: Is Being a Good Mentor (and Michelle Obama’s Brother) Enough to Save Craig Robinson’s Job?  (Read 196 times)

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Is Being A Good Mentor (And Michelle Obama’s Brother) Enough To Save Craig Robinson’s Job?
The president’s brother-in-law is a good man and a great leader for his players. But as Oregon State’s basketball coach, Craig Robinson loses more than he wins. What makes a successful college coach, character or victories?
posted on March 23, 2014 at 11:04am EDT
CORVALLIS, Ore. — The mass text message went out on the morning of Aug. 25, 2008, a reminder from Oregon State University men’s basketball coach Craig Robinson that everyone should tune into any one of the major news channels that evening.

 This had nothing to do with basketball. Instead, Robinson was slated to introduce his younger sister Michelle Obama on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention. His speech would come two days before Barack Obama would officially accept the party’s presidential nomination.

One of the people who received the text message was Roberto Nelson, then a 17-year-old basketball star from Santa Barbara, Calif. Robinson had entered Nelson’s life only a few months earlier during a recruiting visit. Nelson came away especially impressed with Robinson, in part because the coach never brought up the subject of basketball.

“That was totally different from all the other coaches,” Nelson told BuzzFeed. “We just hit it off immediately. You could tell that he really cared about me as a person.”

Nelson was dazzled when he saw Robinson introduce the future first lady. Robinson strode to the stage in a black suit and bright orange tie, the colors of Oregon State. “Today,” Robinson told the crowd, “I’m proud to be the coach of the Oregon State men’s basketball team. Go Beavers!”

“It was so powerful,” Nelson said recently, still awed at the memory. Nelson committed to Robinson and the Beavers a few weeks later, choosing the traditional basketball doormat over national powers such as UCLA, Florida, and Ohio State.

“I had to explain it to people,” recalled Nelson, now a 23-year-old fifth-year senior for the Beavers. “I was thinking more about my future than they were. I understood the vision that Coach Rob had.”

That vision includes living meaningful lives on and off the court, the sort of well-rounded experience that so many colleges claim to offer to their athletes. The 6-foot-7-inch Robinson is the embodiment of that ideal: He was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He was a successful businessman before he pursued a career as a college basketball coach.

Robinson lived up to expectations at Oregon State in all ways — except basketball. So Craig Robinson epitomizes an uncomfortable question: Is it enough for a coach to mentor boys into accomplished men in full, or does he also have to win?

Now at the end of his sixth year in Corvallis, Robinson has a record of 94-105 overall, 39-69 in the PAC-12 Conference. Oregon State has finished better than eighth place in the league only once.

The nadir came Wednesday in a third-tier post-season tournament called the College Basketball Invitational. The Beavers got eliminated in the first round, losing 96-92 at home to to Radford — a team that in regular season had lost by double digits to Hampton and Virginia Military Institute and that had exactly one starter taller than 6 feet 4 inches. In the arena, the number of empty seats was jarring. “I was told there were more people at Gill Coliseum for the 4A girls consolation finals Saturday morning than tonight,” tweeted Steve Gress, the sports editor from the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

The next morning, The Oregonian — the state’s largest daily newspaper — ran this headline: “Should Oregon State Beavers fire Craig Robinson?” Nearly two-thirds of the more than 4,000 voters chose this option: “Yes. He’s had enough time to show what he can do … and it’s underwhelming.”

In his best-selling memoir A Game of Character: A Family Journey from Chicago’s Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond, Robinson explains his theory — learned from his late father — that “you could tell everything you needed to know about someone by how they played the game.” He famously used a pickup game in 1990 to assess the character of his sister’s new beau at the time, a young Chicago lawyer named Barack Obama. “He was real, down-to-earth, a good guy,” Robinson wrote. “He had passed the test with a definitive thumbs-up on his playing and character.”

“Playing and character.” By his own account, both measures matter. But on the first, Robinson’s Oregon State hasn’t been good enough to succeed against its peers in the PAC-12.

This is a story about Craig Robinson and whether that uncomfortable but unavoidable fact should matter.

Life is too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket.

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The question is whether any school in  leftwing Oregon would dare axe the Mooch's brother, no matter how bad his teams are.
Oregon State meets with Craig Robinson, but is there another way out?
John Canzano  The Oregonian
March 28, 2014 at 5:09 AM, updated March 28, 2014 at 5:26 AM

Athletic department source confirms that Oregon State athletic director Bob DeCarolis met at length early on Thursday with men's basketball coach Craig Robinson. That's what we know right now.

I reached out to DeCarolis, and will update. But while we wait for comment, let's consider an interesting proposal that might make all sides satisfied.

Robinson is 93-104 (39-69 in Pac-12 Conference play) in his six seasons. This season ended on a low note, with the Beavers losing to Radford at home in front of an announced crowd of 1,351. Boosters are frustrated. Fans are frustrated. The athletic department is handcuffed as it owes Robinson $4 million and can't possibly fire him cold. And Robinson himself needs to find a way to save face in this mess, and keep his future as a coach viable.

As far as we know Oregon State doesn't have a booster willing to step forward and buy out the remaining years on Robinson's contract, but is it possible that Robinson himself might want out if he could navigate that delicately and make it look like he was getting a promotion?

I expect that Thursday's meeting might consist of Robinson laying out a blueprint (change on the coaching staff, recruiting strategy, etc.) on how he plans to stay competitive while rebuilding a roster that lost a line of talented seniors.

But let's suppose Robinson sees what fans see. Not a lot of returning talent. No momentum. A home arena that presents recruiting challenges. The prevailing thought is that Robinson somehow improving on last season's 8-10 conference mark would be the equivalent of him walking the high-wire in a Cirque du Soleil act.

Robinson has been long thought of as a guy who might end up back at Princeton one day in their athletic department, raising funds. That's out there. Also, the coach joked after the loss to Radford, "If I get fired, it's been nice knowing you guys." I reached DeCarolis the morning after and the AD called it, "a bad joke at a bad time."

Thursday's meeting wasn't the first between DeCarolis and Robinson in the last week. The athletic director told me that he called an impromptu meeting with Robinson a week ago in the wake of that awful season-ending loss to Radford and Robinson's ill-timed post-game comments. DeCarolis wanted an explanation from Robinson.

I asked DeCarolis if Robinson indicated during that conversation whether he might be open to a buy out. The athletic director told me Robinson "sounded 100 percent committed" to fixing what's wrong at OSU and wouldn't comment further until the two talked.

Now, they've talked.

But try this on while we wait to hear more... would Robinson want out?

Would he be open to the idea of Oregon State buying him out early, shaking hands with DeCarolis and carrying, say, $2.5 million into his future job at Princeton rather than enduring what might be his worst-ever season in Corvallis?

I expect that Robinson will come back next season. I expect DeCarolis will want changes among Robinson's assistants, and an assurance that the coach has a viable plan to finish above .500 next season.

But while we wait for confirmation of all that from Robinson and DeCarolis, try on the notion that there might be a clean way out of this for all parties. OSU can't afford $4 million buyout right now, and every indication is that DeCarolis is willing to bring Robinson back for another year, but is there a number that would appease Robinson and also be palatable for OSU?
Life is too short to leave the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket.

Offline PzLdr

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As I recall, the last time Coach Robinson skated close to being fired [pardon the mixed sport metaphor], the Feds gave his school about 2 mill. Right after his brother-in-law got to either the Senate or White House. Perhaps a similar coincidence looms in the near future.    :whistle: :whistle:
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