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Published: Saturday, 12/25/2010

10 Questions with Jim Robinson

Two things stand out about Jim Robinson's basketball coaching career: He is well-traveled, and he knows how to win. Robinson, 67, is in his third season at Maumee Valley Country Day School and 41st overall as a high school coach. His career record (496-305) includes 10 stints at nine different schools. The Elberta (Mich.) native moved to Toledo with his parents and four siblings at age 6. Robinson graduated from Woodward High School (1961), Ohio State University (bachelor's degree, 1966) and the University of Toledo (master's, 1970). He is best known for his 22 seasons at Maumee (1983-1997 and 1999-2007), but also guided teams at Port Clinton, Cincinnati Western Hills, St. Francis de Sales, Lima Senior, Libbey, Milan (Mich.), and Lake. His top seasons came at Maumee (22-1 in 1983-84 and 22-3 in 1993-94), and his season at Lake (19-2, 1998-99). He also spent three seasons as an assistant at the University of Akron (1980-83).

My dad was in the Coast Guard on Lake Michigan and could only get Detroit and Chicago radio.He was a big Tigers and Cubs fan.He and my grandfather worked with me to make me a switch-hitter.I grew up in a sports household and have always loved the competition.

I played summer baseball at Point Place Park for Gary Duhaime.He was 20 and in college. I was 12.We won several knothole championships over my teen years and, because of Gary, I knew I would go to college and be a coach. I wrote a paper in seventh-grade English class on choosing a profession. Mine was coaching.

Working with deaf boys [Ohio School for the Deaf] at the age of 20.It gave me confidence that I could coach anybody. I was given the opportunity to be a head coach in Port Clinton at the age of 22. I have often said to friends, 'I thought I knew everything.' In reality, I knew nothing.

My best probably came at Maumee because of the length of time spent there. It was a respected program by our entire area. We competed strongly in the NLL as well as a nonleague schedule that usually included five or six City League schools. I think my chief assets at Maumee were discipline (playing at whatever tempo was necessary to have the chance to win), and organization. I have legal pads that have every practice I have ever coached.

Beating Canton McKinley in overtime when they were ranked No. 1 in Ohio was a great one. Another was in Cincinnati in the opening game versus Oak Hills.They were picked No. 1 and had a 30-game regular-season streak going. My favorite win was on Jan. 28, 1994 - Maumee at Perrysburg.We were down two with 8.4 seconds left. The [NLL] championship on the line and my son, Jim, Jr., made a three-pointer at the buzzer. We won the title outright.

The saddest thing ever for me was to see the boy [Jamie Mercurio] who is like a son to me, lie in a hospital bed brain-damaged from an auto accident. He played for me, and he worked for me. He was the Mid-Am player of the year as a senior at Miami.Today, I still visit him, love him, and I am most happy when he attends my games.

John Wooden is my idol. I took things from Bob Knight, and Dean Smith. Much of what I teach defensively is Bob Nichols, Jim McDonald, and Jud Heathcote. There are so many quality coaches I have coached against. It is hard to single out anyone. Currently, Von Graffin, Tim Reiser, Marc Jump, Dave McWhinnie, John Lindsay, Gene Davis, Ed Heintschel, Jim Kubacki, Gary Duhaime, Bart Schroeder, Larry Clark, Dave Boyce, Joe Stalma, and many more.

My wife was an Ohio State cheerleader and an avid basketball fan. Her support through the tough years has been unending. My son became a head coach for five years. My two girls were cheerleaders in high school and truly gave me understanding when Maumee and Perrysburg [where they cheered] played. No way would I still be at it without them.

In the beginning I thought one needed a great record to move to the collegiate level. That was my goal. So I moved often trying to win at what I thought was better hoops. Once in college, I was disillusioned. I hated recruiting and traveling and being away from my family. Two weeks after taking the Maumee job I turned down an assistant position at Minnesota. I have often wondered what that may have led to. Finally, it became time to retire from Maumee. Jim Fish at Maumee Valley, my neighbor of 13 years, asked me to join his Hawk family.I still enjoy the competition.

The biggest changes have been much more five-man movement on offense. There's longer-range shooting because of the 3-point line, and pressure help-side defense. I like to think my teams have always played solid defense first, and I think we still do. There are three kinds of teams you must play. One is a team you know you are physically better than, and you press and run. Two is a team you are about equal to, and you must execute the little things better than they do to assure victory.Three is a team that is better physically than your team, and you tempo the game. This still works.

-- Steve Junga



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