He brought the Bears his offense, using elements of his alma mater's team to lead them to title contention this year. He brought them pep and emotion, screaming animatedly at them from the bench. And he brought national ink, telling reporters about his brother-in-law, presidential candidate hopeful Barack Obama.
Now, after two years in the small world of Brown and Ivy League hoops, a big-time program is luring men's basketball Head Coach Craig Robinson to bring all that out West.
Robinson is the top candidate to become Oregon State University's next basketball coach, several online media outlets and Oregon newspapers reported yesterday, all citing unnamed sources.
Several outlets reported that Robinson has already accepted the position at the Pac-10 Conference school, but Sporting News and an Oregonian columnist reported early this morning that Robinson will first visit the Corvallis, Ore., institution today before he makes a decision.
Robinson, a former two-time Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton, did not return calls last night. Director of Athletics Michael Goldberger could not be reached for comment.
Outside the Pizzitola Center last night, Assistant Coach Doug Stewart '94 said he could not confirm media reports. But the former Brown team captain chose his words carefully, saying that Robinson loves Brown and that Robinson's situation is one in which he has to consider whatever offers come his way.
Stewart said Robinson, who was in San Antonio this weekend for the annual convention of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, spoke only briefly with coaches. He added that Robinson would have more details today.
The reports seemed to catch players by surprise. Team captain Damon Huffman '08, who was planning to meet with teammates last night, said team members knew nothing of Robinson's possible hiring.
Several team members did not return calls later, though Huffman wrote in a text message that "nothing is official" about Robinson yet.
This season, Robinson led the Bears to a 19-10 record and a trip to the College Basketball Invitational. The Bears set the school mark for wins in a season and finished second in the Ivy League. The Bears were 11-18 in the 2006-07 season, Robinson's first at Brown.
Robinson's departure would not be a complete surprise. He had been getting plenty of media exposure this year as the Bears began winning games and as Obama began winning presidential primaries. The Providence Journal reported today that Robinson was under consideration for the head coach position at Providence College.
Robinson would have greater press and recruiting tools at his disposal at Oregon State, which went 6-25 this year and hasn't had a winning season since 1990. Unlike the Ivy League, the Pac-10 is a major conference that allows athletic scholarships. The Oregon State Beavers boast famous basketball alums in NBA guards Gary Payton and Brent Barry.
Robinson has a couple of compelling reasons to stay at Brown. Though the team seems likely to slump next year, as its two best players will graduate in May, the charismatic Robinson may get a boost from new recruits and from the maturation of Peter Sullivan '11 and Adrian Williams '11, who played well as freshmen this season.
The 45-year-old Chicago native lives on the East Side of Providence with his wife and two children.