One possible candidate Illinois AD Mike Thomas may consider to fill the men's basketball coaching vacancy is Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson. Robinson is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and older brother of U.S. First Lady Michele Obama, making him brother-in-law of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Robinson was hired at Oregon State in 2008 and has compiled a record of 59-68 in his first four years. After taking over a program that went 6-25 the previous year, Robinson led the Beavers to an 18-18 mark in his first season, which included a CBI Championship game victory. He also put together a highly-touted recruiting class.
The 2009-2010 season was not as successful for Robinson. Oregon State finished the regular season 14-17 and fifth place in the Pac-10. The Beavers were still invited back to the CBI but quickly fell in the first round. Oregon State again took a step backwards in 2010-2011, finishing 10-19 (5-13 in conference), ninth in the Pac-10 and missed all postseason tournaments.
The current season was an improvement for the Beavers, finishing the regular season 19-13. They earned another CBI birth.
Before Robinson took over at Oregon State, he was head coach at Brown University from 2006-2008. During his tenure, he put together an accumulative record of 30-28 and helped build a depleted program. In the 2006-2007 season, a conference record of 6-8 and fifth place in the Ivy League earned him the Ivy League Coach of the Year honor by Basketball-U.com. The following season, the Bears finished second in the league with a team record 19 wins and grabbed a CBI invite.
Robinson gained valuable experience as an assistant coach at Northwestern under head coach Bill Carmody from 2000-2006. He was taught by Carmody, who has helped build Northwestern into a program that is inching closer to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
From 2001-2005, Robinson helped guide the Wildcats to the most wins for the program, 57, in a four-year period at that time. Robinson was also noted as being a very successful recruiter for the Wildcats.
Robinson's first head coaching experience came at the University of Chicago High School in 1999-2000. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at the Illinois Institute of Technology from 1988-1990, where he was in charge of offensive implementation, game strategy, recruiting and advance scouting.
After his time at IIT, he took a break from coaching. He was Vice President for Continental Bank from 1990-92, Vice President for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter from 1992-99, and Managing Director for Loop Capital Market before getting back into coaching again.
Robinson also had an impressive career as a player and is considered among the best players in Ivy League history. Along with grabbing two Ivy League Player of the Year honors, he ranks fourth on Princeton's all-time scoring list with 1,441 points and led the Ivy League in field goal percentage in 1982 (.577) and 1983 (.642) at the forward position.
He graduated in 1983 with a B.A. in Sociology, where he was selected in the fourth round of the 1983 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He never played but eventually got the chance to play professionally in the British Basketball League for two years with the Manchester Giants.
At Oregon State, he exclusive runs a zone defense and a Princeton style offense. And while Robinson's coaching resume may not be breathtaking, he still attracts the attention of several schools, especially Illinois.
Robinson is from Chicago, an area Illinois has struggled recruiting. If Illinois can land Robinson, his African-American ethnicity, good recruiting skills, and Chicago roots might make an impact in the area. His record is not outstanding, but he rebuilt two programs at Brown and Oregon State basically from scratch. And he has connections to Barack Obama, which he believes has a positive impact on his recruiting.
Robinson may not be the home-run hire many Illinois fans seek, but he is definitely worth consideration.
WHY HE WOULD BE A GOOD HIRE:
He is a good recruiter, had ties to Chicago, and has connections to Barack Obama, which could bring some positives along with it as far as media. And although his record may not be the best, don't be deceived by it; he has brought two programs back from the dead.
WHY HE MAY NOT BE A GOOD HIRE:
He is from a generally weak conference, he's never coached in a powerhouse conference like the Big Ten, and it may not be an exciting hire for the Illinois fan base. Plus, Illini Nation may not want a Princeton-style offense.