Dorm Report: A delayed, fresh start for Oregon State
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Plenty of college basketball coaches have felt the sting that comes with being let go this offseason.
Jeff Bzdelik was replaced by Danny Manning at Wake Forest, Mike Jarvis was sent packing from Florida Atlantic and Steve Donahue was fired at Boston College, just to name a few.
On Monday, Oregon State announced that Craig Robinson also will be seeking employment elsewhere.
Robinson, who is perhaps best known for being the brother of First Lady Michelle Obama than for any basketball accomplishment, had a record of 94-105 as the head coach for the Beavers. He led them to a CBI championship in his first season and to 21 wins during the 2011-12 season, but the program never showed serious and sustained improvement.
The Beavers failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in each of Robinson's six seasons and made it past the first round of the Pac-12/Pac-10 tournament only twice.
To be fair, Oregon State won only six games in the season before Robinson's hiring, so he did improve the standing of the program, but just not by enough.
This past season did an excellent job of encapsulating the frustrating mediocrity of Robinson's tenure. The Beavers pulled off a few upsets (UCLA and Arizona State) but ultimately never came close to replicating that success consistently, finishing 16-16 overall and 8-10 in league play. Robinson's inability to navigate his team to postseason success also doomed the Beavers, who lost to in-state rival Oregon in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament and then fell 96-92 to a Radford, a much smaller program, in the CBI.
While such a disappointing end may have caused some athletic directors to immediately cut ties and begin the coaching search, Oregon State's Bob De Carolis did not pull the plug on Robinson immediately. In fact, he didn't make the decision for some time.
The Beavers' loss to Radford came on March 19 and it was not until Monday afternoon that Robinson's firing was officially announced.
Waiting more than a month to fire Robinson does nothing to change the financial ramifications, as there are still three years and $4 million left on his contract, or make the coaching search any easier, with the program having less time and a smaller pool from which to select the right candidate.
In fact, the timing of this decision is perplexing. Compounding the confusion is the fact that De Carolis released a statement just over a week after the Beavers lost to Radford, confirming his support for Robinson and his intentions to keep the head coach employed.
"I'm looking forward to watching Coach Robinson continue to build our program," De Carolis said in the statement.
What has changed since he put those words to paper?
"You get close and you get emotional. We were friends of the Robinsons socially. I wanted it to happen for him, for those players and all those loyal Beavers out there," De Carolis explained in a press conference on Monday. "I think in my evaluation, the first part of it, I was looking through orange- colored glasses, and as I pulled myself away after I made the (initial) decision, I went back and re-evaluated all those thoughts, I was coming to a different place. I think I was more objective this time around."
Changes to the Oregon State roster in the last month also may have made for a less optimistic outlook.
First, Pac-12 leading scorer Roberto Nelson (20.7 points per game) as well as Devon Collier (13.4 ppg, 5.6 rebounds per game) and Angus Brandt (12.6 ppg) are graduating, but that was anticipated.
The more troubling changes involve Hallice Cookie (8.2 ppg), Challe Barton (3 ppg) and Eric Moreland (8.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg), who will all be playing basketball elsewhere next season. Cooke is transferring, Barton is going abroad and Moreland made the surprising choice to enter the NBA Draft.
That didn't leave many pieces for Robinson to build the program, with players like Langston Morris-Walker (4 ppg) and Malcolm Duvivier (3.1 ppg), who saw limited playing time as it was, the best returning options.
Robinson did not sit idly by as the bulk of his roster was swept away. Just last week, Maryland's Nick Faust (9.4 ppg, 3.7 assists per game), a coveted player on the transfer market, officially announced he would be playing at Oregon State. On top of that, Robinson added some solid recruits, such as 6- foot-8 forward Cameron Oliver and 6-3 guards Chai Baker and Gary Payton II, with Payton II coming in from junior college.
However, now that Robinson is gone, will some of those recruits question their commitments? After all, each of those players made the decision to attend Oregon State with the notion that they would be playing under Robinson's tutelage.
The roster turmoil will have to take a backseat for now, with the Beavers' top priority filling their coaching vacancy.
There are certainly some candidates that would fit, such as David Grace, a former assistant coach at Oregon State, as well as several other assistants within the Pac-12 Conference and some head coaches at mid-major schools in the Pacific Northwest. Montana's Wayne Tinkle, for example, is an intriguing prospect.
De Carolis also may decide to stay in house with someone like Freddie Owens, who just finished his first season as an assistant at Oregon State.
In his earlier statement about Robinson's job security, De Carolis laid out what he hoped to get from his head coach.
"Our goals in every sport are to win a conference title; to play in NCAA postseason events (and) to compete with character and integrity," the statement read.
Robinson certainly didn't accomplish those first two goals, which is presumably why he was let go. However, the delayed timing of his firing seems at odds with De Carolis' determination to do so, as the Beavers are without a huge chunk of last year's team and now their head coach, with six weeks already gone in the offseason.
Fresh start or not, it may get a lot worse before it gets better for hoops in Corvallis.
05/06 08:04:22 ET