15 December 2010
Craig Robinson sat on a black folding chair at Gill Coliseum one early Saturday morning last month with nothing but a cup of coffee in his hand and long pause filling the air.
His team was working out around him, preparing for another practice and season at Oregon State which annually falls under the guise of a constant "rebuilding project" both in and out of Pac-10 play.
Robinson was miffed. He searched for the right words to what he thought was a tough question:
What drives you crazy as a head coach?
It had nothing to do with the Beavers' record; now a mediocre 4-4 entering Wednesday's contest in Montana against the Grizzlies. It didn't even have anything to do with what Robinson and his program are steadily trying to overcome - reconnecting with the glory days of the past without repeating the mistakes that have prevented Oregon State from reaching the NCAA Tournament since the 1989-90 season.
Instead, this love-hate relationship extends beyond the court all while impacting the lives on it.
"What I don't like about this job is the hypocrisy," Robinson finally confessed.
"When I left corporate America, I was sure I wouldn't run into an 'old boys network' or an unethical industry that was worse than what I was leaving. And right now - right now - people don't like or trust college basketball coaches," Robinson explained, with NCAA violations handed down in recent years to the likes of the University of South Florida, University of Memphis, Indiana University and even Pac-10 foe, Cal just to name a few.
"That is the part of the job that I hate, because we should all be in it for these guys. And if we are in it for these guys, we are doing in the right way. We are an example for these guys."
For Robinson, "these guys" are an athletic young group of talented and inexperienced players fresh off a 89-69 non-conference win last week over Texas-Pan American and are still wondering where they will fit when Oregon State opens Pac-10 play on December, 30 against Arizona State. Until then, non-conference games against Montana, George Washington and Illinois-Chicago await the Beavers.
Last season, the Robinson and company finished 8-10 in Pac-10 play. But when it comes to this season, how will Robinson really gauge the success of his program?
The rebuilding is nothing new, so does that mean the expectations have changed?
Or does it simply come down to "wins and losses"?
"If we can have a winning record in the Pac-10, now that is success. We also use our recruiting as a way to measure that [success]. With that, we are talking now about Top 100 recruits and that's how I can tell we are making progress because we are recruiting kids who are good. We are getting the right kinds of guys," Robinson continued.
Part of those recruiting efforts will be on display this season and includes the likes of 6'3 guard, Roberto Nelson, 5'8 point guard, Ahmad Starks and Devon Collier, a 6'7 forward who was recruited heavily by the likes of St. John's and Providence among others.
"We are working from the bottom up. We aren't paying players. We aren't doing anything illegal - and I wouldn't do that anyway."
That's where the love comes in for Robinson; he loves these kids.
But with youth - and on a team with seven freshman and graduating four seniors - comes growing pains and Robinson is fully aware that's what he's been seeing with Oregon State's inconsistent play thus far this season - the turnovers, the shoddy offense, and premature glimpses of what the next four years could hold for a novice core. Still, knowing no current Pac-10 team occupies the Top 25 AP poll, Robinson wouldn't mind sneaking up on some teams.
But will that be part of the plan this year?
"I'm happy with the direction it (the program) is going," said Robinson, taking a sip of his coffee.
"They (Edward Ray, OSU President and Bob De Carolis, AD) know how hard it is. They understand we are going in the right direction and we are doing it the way it should be done."
Faith in the program is there. Belief in the players is too. And now it comes down to putting wins on the board. Maybe then Oregon State and Robinson can eventually look back and know the good and the bad was all worth the wait.
That's a part of the job any coach would love.
photo: washngton post
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