If it were up to the national media pundits, Oregon State’s Craig Robinson would already have the Pac-10 Coach of the Year award sitting on his mantle at home. The brother-in-law of President Barack Obama is the journalists’ choice for COY on a conference level, and quite possibly on a national level as well. But what does the media know?
If you ask me, Robinson’s appointment as Coach of the Year is strictly tied to his family tree. If, say, Ken Bone (in no way, shape, or form related to our new prez) had led the Beavers to an identical record under similar circumstances, we wouldn’t hear jack about Bone or the turnaround of Oregon State basketball. But because it’s Robinson, the sexy choice across the country, all we hear about is how great the new-look Beavs are.
Wrong. Robinson took a horrible Oregon State team (0-18 in conference play in 2008) and simply made them mediocre (7-8 in conference play thus far, 13-13 overall). His success in Corvallis is more a reflection on embattled former coach Jay John, than it is on Robinson. John had zero control over the players on his team. The Beavers of the past half-decade were notorious thugs that lacked leadership and played an out-of-control brand of basketball. Oregon State had talented individuals on their roster, but were simply not capable of winning under the direction (or lack thereof) of Jay John.
This year’s Oregon State team is better simply because their old coach is history. Craig Robinson is no savior (yet), he’s simply a benefactor of happenstance. The ’09 Beavs won’t make the NCAA Tournament (barring a victorious run in the Pac-1o Tourney) and are barely on the bubble for the NIT. This isn’t a Tony Bennett type year, where in Bennett’s first season at Washington State, the new coach took the Cougars to the Big Dance. No, this Oregon State team is on the verge of being considered okay, and nothing more than that. On a national level, Robinson shouldn’t even be on the radar for COY. And in the Pac-10, he’d be my number three choice amongst the other nine competitors.
So who are numbers one and two then, you ask? 1a is our very own Lorenzo Romar. 1B is Cal coach Mike Montgomery. Either of these two gentlemen should be considered worthy of Pac-10 COY honors.
Romar has taken a Washington team that missed out on the postseason in ’07, then went to the dreadful CBI in ’08, and led them to first place in one of the nation’s strongest conferences. At 11-4 in Pac-10 play, and 20-7 overall, the Huskies have all but wrapped up a Top 5 seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
Montgomery, in his first year at Berkeley, has taken a Cal program that finished 17-16 overall a year ago, and led them to a 20-7 overall record so far in 2009. Their 9-5 conference record is good for third place in the Pac-10. In addition, the Bears are poised to find themselves in the NCAA Tournament this year, rather than the NIT where they ended up last season.
Both these men have taken mediocre programs from a year ago and made them good, or even great, this season. Robinson, as alluded to before, has taken a bad team had made it average. Barack’s bro-in-law might be worthy of a “Most Improved” award, but he is by no means the Coach of the Year. Sorry to break it to you, national media.