It’s official: Robinson will leave Brown

Coach introduced at Oregon State

By
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Michael Goldberger knew this day would come. The director of athletics just thought, and hoped, it would come later.

But the inevitable finally happened yesterday, as Craig Robinson, the men’s basketball head coach whom Goldberger hired two years ago to turn the struggling team around, finally outgrew the tiny confines of Brown and Ivy League basketball and will head West for a big-time and big-money program.

Robinson was introduced as the head coach of the Oregon State University Beavers yesterday, confirming several reports on Sunday that he had been offered the job.

He has resigned from his position at Brown and will assume his new job at the Pac-10 Conference school immediately.

“We’re really grateful for the work he’s done here,” Goldberger said. “We certainly understand that this might be a great opportunity.” He added that Brown is beginning a national search for his successor.

At the Corvallis, Ore., institution yesterday, Robinson, who did not return calls for comment, opened his introduction speech by thanking the audience and saying, “Go Beavs!” He then thanked the Oregon State officials who hired him before turning his attention to Brown.

“I’d also like to thank the place I’m leaving, too – Brown University,” he said. “Dr. Ruth Simmons, the president, Michael Goldberger, the athletics director, and especially my staff and team, because I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for those guys.”

But he added: “While I’ll miss those guys, I got new guys.”

Robinson also took questions from local media about his offense (“better than the Princeton offense,” he said), his love of holding early-morning practices (“5:30 is my favorite time of day”) and, of course, his famous brother-in-law, presidential candidate Barack Obama (“at least it took four questions to get to” that question, he said, drawing laughs).

Robinson, 45, leaves the Bears after leading them to a school-record 19 wins and a berth in the College Basketball Invitational this season. The 2006-07 Ivy League Coach of the Year leaves his first head coaching job with a 30-28 record.

The coach’s departure did not totally catch those at Brown by surprise. Robinson had been receiving media attention as his team won games and as Obama won presidential primaries. Goldberger said he knew last year that Robinson’s stay at Brown would likely be short, even though the coach had only gone 11-18 in his first season.

“After last year, Craig and I sat down and talked,” Goldberger said. “And when you’re looking at some of the salaries and some of the opportunities that are out there – I just felt that Craig knew he had star potential and I knew there might be a time” when he would have to do what was best for his family, he said.

Still, Goldberger admitted that he was caught off-guard by the Oregon State hiring, saying he thought Robinson would spend at least one more year at Brown before moving on.

Chris Skrelja ’09 and team captain Mark McAndrew ’08 said players understood Robinson’s decision and were enthusiastic about the coach’s new opportunity.

“Everyone’s happy,” Skrelja said. He added that it might be tough for him to adjust to his third coach in four years, but was optimistic about the team’s outlook last year.

It’s too soon to say how Robinson’s departure will affect Brown next year.

The Bears seem likely to slump next year, as their two best players graduate in May. The head coach’s exit may further hinder the team, as Robinson may take assistant coaches with him to Oregon State, and as recruits may reconsider their commitments to Brown. Goldberger said Brown officials will sit down with recruits to see if they’re still interested in attending the University.

Goldberger said he couldn’t disclose whether Robinson’s contract, which is worth less than $400,000 annually, had a buyout clause. Robinson has a six-year contract with a base salary of $750,000 at Oregon State, the Oregonian reported yesterday.

Robinson will take over a vastly larger program at Oregon State, which has the name recognition, media attention, athletic scholarships, famous basketball alums and fat paycheck that Brown can’t give.

But he’ll also face a much bigger challenge than he did in the Ivy League. The Pac-10 is considered one of the country’s toughest conferences, and the Beavers are coming off a 6-25 season in which they went 0-18 in league play.

But Goldberger, Skrelja and McAndrew said that Robinson is equipped for primetime basketball.

“The Pac-10 is definitely a big jump, but not for someone who’s been as successful as Coach Robinson has been his entire life,” McAndrew said. “He’s proven that wherever he goes or whatever he does, he’s been successful.”