By Chuckie Maggio
The college basketball coaching carousel made its way to Olean this summer when assistant coach Jeff Massey left to take the same position at Toledo and Jerome Robinson was hired to fill the vacancy.
Robinson joins the Bonnies staff after two seasons at Eastern Michigan University. In his first season he served as Lifeskills Coordinator, and then became Player Development and Video Coordinator last season. EMU saw moderate success in his two years on the staff, making the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) in March after a 22-15 season.
In the second week of June, Robinson was first contacted by coach Mark Schmidt about the assistant coach opening after Schmidt had gotten Robinson’s name from several reputable people in the business. The first conversation lasted 20 minutes, and the two spoke a number of times after that initial call.
Robinson was then invited down to Bonaventure for an interview with Schmidt and Athletic Director Steve Watson.
“I left St. Bonaventure feeling real good,” Robinson said. “When I got the call from coach Schmidt (that I got the job), I was ecstatic. Words can’t describe the joy that I was feeling.”
He had a positive first impression of Schmidt, with nothing but good things to say about his new boss.
“Coach has a lot of character. (He’s a) very funny guy, very personable and approachable. He knows his basketball, which is great for me to be under the tutelage of someone who’s that knowledgeable,” said Robinson. “His staff members have long tenures under him. I believe that speaks volumes about who he is and what he’s about.”
As far as concerns about building relationships with the players after their strong emotions about the departure of Massey, Robinson said he doesn’t really have any.
“Whatever feelings they have for coach Massey, they will always have,” he said. “I could never replace the emotional connection our players have for their coach. All I can do is be me and develop new relationships with them.”
To go off of that point, it’s worth noting that assistant coach Steve Curran joined the Bonaventure staff in 2010, three years after the Schmidt era began in Olean. Curran adjusted just fine and is now one of the most respected assistants in the business.
Some of Robinson’s responsibilities will be recruiting, scouting and guard development. Considering only two of the guards on the 2014-15 roster have played a D-I game, that aspect of his job will be an important one.
Teaching guard play is right up Robinson’s alley. He was a very skilled college guard for Bradley University from 1997-2001, averaging 17 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists in his senior season. Those numbers won him the 2001 Most Valuable Athlete Award at Bradley, along with the Defensive Player of the Year of the Missouri Valley Conference and a First-Team All-Conference selection. After getting his degree, he had a solid pro basketball career in France, Belgium and Austria.
Robinson believes his basketball journey will serve him well at St. Bonaventure, but his knowledge of the game will be far more important than his statistics or accolades.
“I think some may respect you a bit more when you have been through what they are going through,” he said. “But ultimately it comes down to the person and knowing your basketball. Players will respect your knowledge of the game, especially if you can make them better, regardless of if you played at a high level or not.”
One of the biggest assets to Robinson brings to the Bonaventure program is that he is a native of Toronto. He was a three-year member of the Canadian national team and represented his country at the 1999 World University Games in Spain. Everyone knows how important the recruiting pipeline north of the border is, as Andrew Nicholson and Matthew Wright both hail from the 416.
“St. Bonaventure has embraced Canadians for years, so we definitely plan on continuing the tradition,” Robinson said. “Canada has had a surge of talented players emerge over the past few years. We will try and bring several of them our way in years to come.”
Since his hiring, Robinson has had the chance to see some of his new players in individual workouts, and he realizes the talent is abundant. He has a few specific goals both personally and team-wise.
“I’m eager to get things rolling,” he said. “The team goal is always focused on helping make the team better than it was before I got here. That’s not always easy, which is why I have to work my tail off. Making the NCAA Tournament is the ultimate goal, all while helping players reach their full potential.
“My personal goal is to absorb as much knowledge from my head coach and colleagues as I possibly can,” he continued. “Coaching is very similar to a school teacher in that you want to learn different methods of teaching, leaving you with an abundance of methods in your repertoire.”
It’s always an interesting story to follow when a new assistant coach joins an established staff, but this situation seems to be the right fit for Jerome Robinson. He exudes confidence and is already on the same page with the rest of the program as far as what the Bonnies are trying to accomplish. The skill set and mindset he will bring to campus seem to be a formula for success in his new role.