Coker joins hoops as administrative staffer

Robi Coker has taken a quick path to the Southeastern Conference. Like Ole Miss head men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy says, it's all about building relationships. That's certainly what has brought this staff together.

Andy Kennedy says the business of coaching is a whole lot about relationships. Nobody knows that better than new Rebel staffer Robi Coker.

Of course, if you take a close look at Kennedy's first Ole Miss staff, it's like a family. Kennedy had player/coach relationships or other strong connections with everyone he's hired or - in the case of Michael White - he's kept on board.

Torrey Ward and Bill Armstrong played at UAB where Kennedy played and coached. White coached at Jacksonville State, and Ward was an assistant coach with White there before White came back to Ole Miss a couple of years ago.

Owen Miller had left the state to coach in Texas and Colorado. But as a native Mississippian, like Kennedy and also near Kennedy's age, he's a great fit.

Now Coker has joined the team as administrative assistant. A Skirum, Ala., native, and Crossville High alum, Coker attended Jacksonville State starting in the fall of 2002 after a couple of years in junior college. A self-described "low man on the totem pole" as a student manager, Coker had a vision then to make it to the Southeastern Conference. He's done so in a relatively short period of time.

Coker, who will turn 25 on Sept. 30, practice-taught at Geraldine High School in Alabama and remained there with Coach Cale Black to help with the basketball program. Then, when former Rebel staffer Jeff Conarroe left to join head coach Mike Davis and assistant coach Tracy Dildy at UAB, Ole Miss came calling. Coker jumped at the chance. It was all about those relationships again.

"I'd met Coach Kennedy at a Final Four once (in St. Louis), and of course I knew Coach White and Coach Ward and Coach Armstrong," said Coker, who is engaged to Melissa Norrell – they'll marry in May, 2007. "There's no doubt those relationships with these coaches are one of the main reasons I'm here."

Says Armstrong, the Ole Miss Director of Men's Basketball Operations, of Coker, "Robi's good for us here. We know him and his work ethic. We know his loyalty. If we need something done, he's eager to do it. We don't have to worry about it. We trust him and know he will get it done."

There's that relationship thing again. It's a lot about who you know, but of course it's also about what those who hire or recommend a person know they can do.

"Robi and I will attack a lot of things together," Armstrong said. "He will be working on the film and video, the recruiting mailouts, our camps, really a lot of aspects of the program from an administrative standpoint. He's a great addition to the staff and will help us to be successful."

"I'll be Coach Armstrong's right-hand man," Coker said. "I'll work in a lot of areas and do whatever he and the other members of the staff need done."

Coker is already contributing, having been on board for nearly two months, and is looking forward to the upcoming season with great anticipation.

"It's a blessing for me that I'm here," he said. "My excitement level is so high. Melissa fell in love with the place when we visited. I'm working in the SEC. I just couldn't ask for a better opportunity."

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