Glenn Robinson

Let’s get one thing out of the way … we’re not talking about Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, who went to Purdue and played most of his pro career with the Milwaukee Bucks. Nope, we’re talking about Glenn Robinson, the all-time winningest coach in Division III men’s basketball history.

I was lucky enough to play for two coaches — Glenn Robinson at Franklin and Marshall and the late Lloyd Wolf at Holy Name — who combined to win almost 1,600 games. They were very different gentlemen, to say the least, but both could coach.

Coach Robinson didn’t drink, smoke or swear. Mr. Wolf did all three of those things.

Robinson won 967 games at F&M, and was there for more than 50 years. He was established when I got there in the early 1980’s and he was a legend by the time he was done in 2019. I could never say it then, but I can and do now: Glenn Robinson was a great coach.

Robinson was such a contradiction: He was flexible and rigid; he gave you freedom but he also gave you rules; he’d go over the top with tough love but could forgive and move on. To say Robinson loved Dean Smith, the former coach of North Carolina, would be an understatement.

Robinson went to Smith’s coaching camps in the summer, and employed the same “open offense” Smith employed for the Tar Heels. There’s never been a better offense created than “open” or “motion” or “flex” or the “Princeton” offense. I lump those all together because they’re based on the same thing: passing, spacing, movement, screening, cutting and ball movement.

Those offenses allow for creativity, they allow for going one-one-one, they allow for hand-offs and backdoors. You have all the freedom in the world … almost. Hell, we only had about three or four “plays” that I can remember. There are some rules, but they are usually few: Big men gotta get out of the post if they’re not getting the ball; most of the time a passer has to “screen away” or cut hard down middle; all five players should be able to handle the ball. Quite frankly, it’s the perfect blend of individual and team.

Robinson could be rigid, though, and two of his rules got to me. The first was “it’s always the passer’s fault.” That meant every turnover, every bobble and every bungle was the passer’s fault, and I was too often the passer.

The second one was: “One-man must get back on defense first.” The one-man was the point guard, which was always me. If any team ever got a fast-break, one-on-zero fastbreak, it was always, always, always my fault. I could have driven, gotten knocked on my ass under the basket without a call, sprained an ankle in the process, and Robinson still expected me to get back on defense first — and not Matt Bastian, the two-man!

If an opponent got a breakaway basket, it was the one-man’s fault. If the other team scored off a two-on-one, it was the shooting guard’s fault; a three-on-two was a small forward problem, and so on. There were no exceptions. There never were. Ever.

Guess what I think are two of the biggest things when it comes to successful basketball: Valuing the ball and getting back on defense.


About Steinmetz

Matt Steinmetz is a veteran San Francisco Bay Area sports journalist. He covered the Golden State Warriors for the Bay Area News Group for more than a decade before becoming a television analyst with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Steinmetz can be heard on "Steiny & Guru" on 95.7-FM The Game in San Francisco, from 12-3.
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