KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Craig Robinson has been a successful businessman with a range of financial institutions. He has led college basketball programs from the relatively small Ivy League to the powerful Pac-12. He even has spent time in the front office of NBA franchises, including the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks.
Those varied experiences are what made him the ideal executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Robinson was hired Monday to replace the retiring Jim Haney, who has held the influential position within the industry for the past 29 years. The brother of former first lady Michelle Obama takes over at a crucial point as college hoops wrestles with ongoing corruption scandals and the prospects of a season spent dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Craig encompasses everything we were looking for and more in the next leader of the NABC,” said TCU coach Jamie Dixon, the current NABC president. “Craig’s experiences as a decorated student-athlete, an accomplished coach and a high-level administrator uniquely position him to lead our association during this crucial moment in time for basketball. Given his background, education and values, we have exceeded expectations from when we started the search.”
The NABC was founded in 1927 by then-Kansas coach Phog Allen in response to a rules change that would have nearly eliminated dribbling from basketball. Allen joined other coaches in a nationwide protest that ultimately preserved what was an integral part of the game, and the NABC has continued to influence rules and other issues ever since.
Among other things, the association established the original National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts; laid the groundwork for the current NCAA Tournaments; and established the College Basketball Experience and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, where the organization is headquartered.
Now, the organization finds itself at a crossroads as coaches are dealing with changes to recruiting and the potential for the postponement of an entire season due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will have a say in rule changes that affect when and how prospects can declare for the NBA draft. And it recently announced the formation of subcommittee chaired by South Carolina coach Frank Martin to address issues of race and diversity.
The NABC also has considerable sway as coaches address issues presented by Condoleezza Rice's independent Commission on College Basketball. The commission recommended in April 2018 sweeping reforms that included an end to the one-and-done rule, lifetime bans for certain infractions and changes in the way the NCAA and schools deal with apparel companies.
The latest issue has been of particular note as Kansas, among other schools, deal with the fallout of an FBI investigation into college basketball that centers on the role such companies play in guiding potential prospects their way.
“To have someone lead our organization with the background of Craig Robinson is a huge win for the NABC,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Playing for a Hall of Fame coach in Pete Carril, being an assistant and a head coach at different levels, including Oregon State, and knowing the challenges that we coaches face are going to put him in a position to really have an impact on basketball coaching and the players we coach.”
Robinson was a two-time Ivy League player of the year for Princeton before spending time in the finance business. He transitioned to coaching and led Brown to 30 wins over two seasons before taking the job with the Beavers. He turned that school around over the course of six seasons, leading Oregon State to four postseason appearances.
Robinson moved to the front office when he was let go by the Beavers, first with the Bucks and recently with the Knicks, where he was vice president of player development and general manager of their G League team.
“Clearly, Craig is coming to the organization at a time of great uncertainty and change, and nearly 5,000 members of this organization will rely on him to represent the best interests of coaches at all levels as we move into the future,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We believe his strong connections to both the college and professional ranks will help us generate more synergy between those two entities that have such a profound impact on the sport.”