Column: Robinson must go if OSU doesn't make 2014 tourney
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 22:03
Imagine a first date with someone goes well, and then the next couple of dates go OK. The fifth date doesn’t go as well as the first four, and you begin to seriously second-guess if things are going to work out.
You consider ending it, but there’s a dance coming up that you want to go to. You can find a new date for the dance, but the dance is too important to you to risk taking someone you’ve never dated before. You know your best bet of having a fun night is if you go with the person you’ve been seeing.
But you go into the dance with the mindset that your date must “wow” you if you’re going to continue seeing them. Like, go-home-together “wow” you. Otherwise, you’re through with that person.
By now, you should know where I’m going with this.
If Craig Robinson’s relationship with Oregon State University is going to continue past a sixth date — a sixth season — he damn well better “wow” Beaver Nation next year.
If the Beavers don’t make the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Robinson must go.
No ifs, ands or buts about it.
Robinson’s fifth campaign as OSU’s men’s basketball coach came to a disappointing end Thursday with a 74-68 loss to Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. The Beavers finished the season with 14 wins, the program’s second fewest under Robinson. Given the talent he had to work with, it was easily Robinson’s worst coaching performance.
Some would say that’s reason enough to fire Robinson next week. I’m not going to disagree with that.
But I think firing Robinson would be a mistake. Not because Robinson has earned a sixth year, but because next year has too much potential to risk a new coach blowing it up.
A new coach might opt to develop the younger guys in hopes that it will benefit the program long-term. The veterans on the team, and there will be a lot of them next year, might check out if they’re not feeling what the new coach is preaching. The team might take too long to learn the new coach’s system to accomplish anything significant in year one.
Under a new coach, next year becomes a rebuilding year. My guess is Beaver Nation is sick of rebuilding years.
Under Robinson, next year is a win-at-all-costs year, and that may be exactly what this program needs. The pressure on next year’s squad will be through the roof if Robinson is around; it’ll cease to exist if he’s not.
Long-term, retaining Robinson might set the program back a year. But the program has been in a state of futility for more than two decades now, so what’s it really going to hurt if Robinson gets one last crack at it before starting from scratch yet again?
The reason next year is NCAA Tournament or bust is because Robinson’s had too many “meh” (and some bad) years to afford another one. You could say that a 20-win season and an NIT appearance wouldn’t qualify as a “meh” year, but I’d disagree. Not with what OSU has coming back — which is everyone but Joe Burton, plus Angus Brandt, Daniel Gomis and two incoming freshmen (an outsider shooter, an interior defender) who fill needs.
If Robinson can’t lead OSU to the Big Dance next year, he’s never going to.
Like I stated, the reason OSU should keep Robinson is not because he’s earned it. At this point, after all we’ve seen, it’s fair to say he is not a good basketball coach.
By his own admission, he is not a good defensive coach; “I’d like to get better at the whole concept of man-to-man defense” is what he told me in January. OSU has finished last in the conference in scoring defense each of the last three years and last in field goal percentage defense two of the last three years. Robinson is not good at making in-game adjustments; OSU blew eight halftime leads this season. He’s not a good late-game coach; OSU was 1-7 in games decided by four points or less.
Further, Robinson has not proven he can develop players — Ahmad Starks and Devon Collier come to mind, in particular. And his reputation as a good recruiter? Look at the last two classes he’s brought in and tell me if you see any future All-Pac-12 players, because I don’t.
But it’s in the program’s best short-term interests to give Robinson one last chance to prove he’s a better coach than he’s shown.
Next year’s team will have the talent to make the NCAA Tournament, and if it doesn’t, it’ll be because Robinson is the coach we think he is. And then it’ll be time to cut ties, because the 2014-15 roster will be a young one lacking talent — a perfect time to bring in someone new and start the rebuilding process over.
If you asked Robinson why he shouldn’t be on the hot seat next season, I imagine he’d say it takes more time than what he’s been given to resurrect a program that hasn’t reached the Big Dance since 1990.
In 2002, Jay John took over the same bad program Robinson did and was fired halfway through his sixth season.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, John won 64 regular-season games his first five seasons and made the NIT once; Robinson has won 68 and has not made the NIT, so don’t try to tell me Robinson deserves better treatment than John got.
But what about Robinson’s contract?
In September, Robinson signed a one-year extension that takes him through the 2016-17 season. Well, in 2005, John signed a five-year extension that took him through the 2009-10 season. He was fired 25 months later.
Some would say OSU can’t afford to fire Robinson because it’d cost too much to buy him out. That’s no excuse; OSU can find the money, and coaches are bought out all the time. And if money honestly is the reason OSU doesn’t fire Robinson if next year doesn’t go as well as it should, then that tells you all you need to know about how much athletic director Bob De Carolis values winning.
You may recall that I wrote in January that Robinson’s seat should not be hot. I stand by that — it shouldn’t have been hot this past season — and nothing in this column contradicts what I wrote then.