Assessing an Awkward Coaching Situation in Corvallis

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on April 2nd, 2014

Craig Robinson said these words following Oregon State‘s season ending loss against Radford, a game played in front of fewer than 1,500 fans in Corvallis.

That game ended his sixth season in Corvallis, with no single campaign resulting in a postseason finish higher than the CBI, and comprising the lowest attendance totals in Gill Coliseum history. Needless to say, Beaver fans aren’t happy and would like to see a change. Still, with that all laid out on the table, I thought Robinson’s joke was hilarious. Timely, self-deprecating, and unexpected — a perfect combination for a laugh in my book. Unfortunately, his boss, athletic director Bob DeCarolis, did not find it as humorous, which is understandable since he has been in Robinson’s corner since day one. “A bad joke at a bad time,” he said the next day. A little over a week later, DeCarolis penned a letter to his biggest boosters, telling them that he had chosen to retain Robinson as head coach for another season.

The relationship between Robinson, the athletic department and Oregon State fans has grown incredibly awkward. The coach needs fans to buy tickets in order to attract recruits. The fans have stopped coming until they start to see a winning product. And there won’t be a winning product until the recruits head to Corvallis. It’s a vicious cycle, one that Robinson has been tasked with breaking. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that his mouth is getting him in trouble. And I’m not talking about his joke to reporters last month. It’s the other quotes like, “Next year’s team could be ranked in the Top 25.” Not likely when he loses Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, and Angus Brandt. Or, “If Eric Moreland returns, we will be one of the top teams in the conference.” He’s already building in excuses for next season six months before practice even starts. No one wants to hear that. And then there is his agent, Rick Giles, saying that the 2013-14 Beavers were “two wins away from the NCAA Tournament.” Um, try two wins away from the NIT — maybe. The empty promises, excuses, and over-inflated expectations aren’t cute anymore. It’s annoying and a waste of time.

Head-Scratching Quotes Have Created Awkwardness Between Robinson And The Fanbase (credit: Victor Decolongon)

Head-Scratching Quotes Have Created Awkwardness Between Robinson And The Fanbase (credit: Victor Decolongon)

Robinson has gotten players like Brandt, Nelson, and Jared Cunningham to come to Corvallis and hasn’t been able to do much with them. There have been losses to Coppin State, Utah Valley and Texas Pan-American, and of course, a 51-point home defeat at the hands of Seattle University with then Beaver commitment Jahii Carson in attendance. He didn’t stay committed for much longer. For Robinson to still be coaching at Oregon State at this time next year, those types of losses need to disappear. The quotes that irk his bosses and fans need to do the same. No more essays on all of his many accomplishments need to be sent out. He has done a lot in his stint with the program, and the difference between competing for 11th versus an upper half finish in the conference is a big one. But the program is now at the point where it needs to see a top-half finish, and not just be a couple victories away. That’s where the problem lies, and he may not have what it takes to fix it.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.

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4 responses to “Assessing an Awkward Coaching Situation in Corvallis”

  1. Bathtub Hahn says:

    I don’t think you adequately detailed just how horrendous Robinson’s coaching record at Oregon State really is. He is 39-69 in the conference and 93-104 overall in his six years there. Steve Donahue, Jeff Bzdelik, Tony Barbee and Ken Bone were all fired this year for numbers similar to Robinson’s and only Bone actually coached a fifth year. Robinson is going to get a seventh. The only reason I can figure is that Oregon State benefits from having the brother-in-law of the United States president as its coach. I’m not saying that in a derogatory way, but I cannot think of another currently employed coach in a major conference with just as poor numbers going into his seventh year or beyond.

  2. Connor Pelton says:

    While that is bad, Robinson inherited one of the worst situations in all of basketball when he took the job. There is also the PR problem of firing the President’s brother-in-law, but those two factors aren’t nearly as big a problem as the $4 million is.

  3. Cate Erickson says:

    Yeah, Robinson inherited a bad situation, but it wasn’t as bad as his counterpart on the men’s side Scott Rueck. He had two girls left from the previous coaching staff and had to hold open campus tryouts to fill his roster….yet he made it to the 2nd round of the NCAA in a few short years. Also, like the article noted, it isn’t like he wasn’t able to get the talent in his first couple of years. He may have come in with a bare cupboard, but he was able to get Jared Cunningham, Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, Brant and Moreland.

  4. AMurawa says:

    This has become my favorite stat of the season: in the 15 years prior to Robinson’s arrival on the campus, Oregon State went 66-204 in conference play, averaging 4.4 wins per Pac-10 season. So Robinson’s average of 6.5 wins per year is actually a marked improvement for OSU basketball.

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