03 March 2011
About a half-hour after Oregon State's loss to California last Saturday at Gill Coliseum, Craig Robinson contemplated whether or not he would watch the game film that night and take notes on what the Beavers did right and wrong.
It had already been a long day. Heck, it's been a long year.
Judging by how the season has gone for Oregon State, there might be more wrong than right to jot down and teach upon this week at practice for the Beavers. But with two games remaining at Arizona and Arizona State this week and then the Pac-10 Tournament that follows, Robinson is far from done coaching and teaching his young team - one Robinson is constantly grooming for the future.
"I like the fact that we are getting better. Our teams have gotten better from the beginning to the end and this is another one of those seasons," Robinson told Beyond the Beat, with Oregon State sitting at 10-17 on the season.
"I could look at the glass half empty, but that's not my style, especially this early. We are just getting these young guys ready to play."
Chances are those are the two words jammed together most often when people talk about Robinson trying to rebuild in Corvallis and the anticpation of actually reaching higher ground. Yet with this season slowly drawing to a close, it's easy to see Robinson's plan is beginning to take shape within a young core of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Roberto Nelson, and Joe Burton.
Remove seniors Calvin Haynes, Daniel Deane, Lathen Wallace and Omari Johnson from the mix, and Oregon State has one of the most athletic and talented rosters in the Pac-10 looking ahead to next season. Don't believe it?
Just wait until next year.
"When I was at Northwestern, they were eleven years into their turnaround. So, it's early in this process. Technically, this is year one. Because next year, they will be all my guys (players fully recruited by Robinson and his staff)," continued Robinson, who will add redshirt forward Eric Moreland and 6-foot-10, 208 pound power forward recruit, Daniel Gomis to the team next season.
For much of the second half of the Pac-10 season, Oregon State has started three freshman and two sophmores, with the bulk of the playing time going toward Robinson's youth movement.
A plan is in place. Sticking with it can prove costly at times. Peep the Beavers' win-loss colum for details, and then you'll realize why Robinson has taken his share of heat this season as college basketball pundits around the country question everything from how minutes are shared on the team, to the staunch zone defense Robinson practices and preaches.
The beautiful thing about it?
Robinson could really care less about what is printed or said.
"Never...never," said Robinson, when asked how often he reads the things written about him or his program.
These days, trying to teach his kids the right way to play and winning games is what matters most for Robinson. That goes for next season. That goes for this season.
"What someone writes has nothing to do with what I am doing - good or bad. The good stuff is sometimes too good, and the bad stuff is too bad. I know what we are working on and what we are trying to achieve, and we are trying to win games. We are trying to educate kids and graduate kids. There is nothing that someone writes that would make me say, 'Oh, I'm not doing this the right way'," explained Robinson.
"Now the kids, they read all of that stuff. They take it personally and then go out and try to disprove it. It's rough, but that's the world we live in. So, I'm not saying that is bad or good. I'm just saying that I don't operate that way. I listen to my wife, my kids, my assistant coaches. I always hear about the stuff that is really bad, because someone will always ask about it. But I can't worry about that. I have to get these guys ready to play, and work hard, and to do things the correct way."
Spend five minutes with Coach Robinson talking about "his kids", and it's easy to understand the care and attention that is going into returning Oregon State to their glory years.
It will take time.
It will take patience.
Robinson has plenty of both and plenty of fight left along the way.
"My parents always told me, 'If it's worth it, it's going to be hard. If it's easy, it's not going to last'. They always said that and I never believed them. Now, that's hard in this business because you can get fired, and you have fans, and blogs, and you have to put that behind you and stick with it."
At Oregon State, the numbers hold the hurt (last in the conference in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, assists, 3-pt percentage) and hope (first in the conference in steals, offensive rebounds) of this year and what is to come.
And it's not over. After beating both Arizona and Arizona State earlier in the season, the Beavers look to bounce back on the road from a defeat to Cal, to perhaps string together back-to-back wins for the first time since early December. Winning two in a row would be a nice way to start the Pac-10 tourney, but that time will come later.
It's too hard to control the future when you are too busy trying to survive the present.
"I'm frustrated we haven't played as well. I didn't manage my expectations for the youth and I would have loved to play a lot better this year,"Robinson confessed.
"But to see what the future holds, it takes some of the pain away."
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