New girls hoops coach has turnaround experience

Sean C. Morgan

Robby Robinson is moving from freshman boys basketball to lead the girls basketball program next school year.

Robinson succeeds John Barnes as head girls coach.

He brings 37 years of coaching experience to the position and a penchant for turning teams around. The girls program has struggled for about two decades.

Robinson has been in Oregon since 1986. He was head football coach at Woodburn, Silverton and Redmond. He previously has assisted Head Coach and Athletic Director Kostanty Knurowski in basketball at North Salem High School. Last year, Knurowski asked him to coach freshman boys.

The last girls team he coached was softball at North Salem.

“That’s where I met Ko,” Robinson said. “Personally, this has been a real adjustment because Sweet Home was in our league many years.”

It’s strange for him to put on the green and gold, he said. “When I was coaching against Sweet Home, I had such a respect for this town, this community.”

The teams were always well-coached and well-disciplined, he said, and they were always good.

Robinson has coached basketball for the majority of his coaching career, and he has officiated women’s Pac-10 basketball, including Civil War games.

Robinson took a position as a high school English teacher in January and is commuting from Salem. He has taught English most of the 37 years he has been a coach.

“I love when students get it, when they start understanding our language and start to write better sentences,” he said.

“I became a teacher and a coach because of a teacher I had and a coach I had,” Robinson said. “My high school English teacher was fabulous, and I wanted to be like her.”

He wanted to affect others, he said.

His small Colorado school played the big schools in sports, Robinson said. In his town, everyone came out to the Friday night football game. Students played three sports and a fourth in the summer.

The high school had about 700 students, but it regularly played off against the big Denver schools, Robinson said.

He was working as head track coach and head football coach in Casper, Wyo., when he got a divorce. He learned Woodburn had a head football coach and English teaching position open, and he made the move.

Sweet Home finished second to Dallas in state that year, 1986, Robinson said. The following year, Sweet Home won the championship.

“I got myself into a barnburner with Sweet Home, Dallas and Woodburn,” he said.

He took the head coach position at Silverton in1990, Robinson said. “Silverton was awful,” with a record of 6-72 in the previous 10 years.

That year, Silverton played in the state finals. The following year, Silverton won the championship.

He doesn’t like to dwell on the past, he said. “There’s not anything anybody can do about the past 15 years.”

Rather, he likes to focus on the half-full glass.

Right now, he has 10 girls working hard after school, Robinson said. They’ll play 16 to 18 games in the next few weeks.

“As corny as it sounds, we’ve really got to focus on show time,” Robinson said. We’ve got to be entertainment for the town.”

That means behind-the-back passes, three-point shooting and a run-and-gun full-court game on offense and defense.

He wants to play ball like Oregon, fast-break basketball with a shot off in 10 seconds, Robinson said. Eventually, he wants to see his team shooting after five or six seconds. He wants to change the culture, with full-speed basketball and a team that attacks.

“We’re not going to have patience,” he said.

Defense will be full-court pressure all the time, either in a zone or a trap, Robinson said. “And we’re off and running as soon as we get a steal. I want one pass, and I want a shot up.”

The team will have players like Devyn Makin, Annie Whitfield, Sarah Wyatt and Megan Graville, he said. “All those are athletic. We’re going to get them out to run like they’re born to do.”

Shooting means time in the gym getting the muscle memory down to do it, Robinson said. Other sports, like track, athletes can practice anywhere, but with basketball, it’s got to be time in the gym.

They’ll be shooting the lights out in the first couple of practices, he said, and the team needs a strong feeder program and summer program.

The successful teams are playing tournaments constantly. Fifteen of the top 4A teams were playing in a tournament at The Hoop in Salem, where he officiated last week.

Robinson wants his team to make a million mistakes, to turn the ball over and get better, he said. It’s an animal concept for the program.

In lion prides, the females hunt in packs, attacking from different angles, Robinson said. The girls have to mimic that and have fun doing it, going all out.

“A lot of success in sports is attitude, about who you are,” Robinson said. It takes a mental change, with tons of positive input.

“We are seriously working for state playoffs,” Robinson said.

“I need the community to be involved,” Robinson said. “I need people to call me.”

He needs people to volunteer beginning with the third grade to develop traveling teams, Robinson said. He may be reached at (503) 999-0950.

He will coach a traveling sixth-grade team in July. Coaching is set at the junior high level, but Robinson is seeking a female coach for the freshman team.

Robinson is married to Donna Robinson. They have two sons, A.J., 23, and B.J., 26. Both will help him develop the girls’ program in Sweet Home. A.J. was starting quarterback at Western Oregon University. B.J. is a financial adviser at Edward Jones.