The good folks up in Corvallis remember the 2007-08 season all too well.
Twenty-five vomit-inducing losses.
And then there was that other thing, you know, the massive elephant in the room: An abysmal 0-19 record against Pac-10 opponents. Make no mistake, four years ago the Oregon State Beavers were doing everything conceivable to give the term 'bad basketball' a bad name. And it was working.
Obviously it was time for a change. It was a time for...hope.
Enter Craig Robinson.
Instead of making a splash with a candidate backed by years of big-time coaching experience, or one with a proven track record of pulling dilapidated programs out of the gutter, the Beavers signed a former banker. Essentially, in desperate search for its new basketball coach, Oregon State went out and hired some guy off Wall Street.
Nevermind the fact that this one-time bond trader happened to be related to the soon-to-be President of the United States. No, that probably didn't have anything to do with his hiring. And nevermind the fact that his resume for this opportunity was suspiciously devoid of the one main prerequisite for all prospective head coaches: real coaching experience. Is a few years sitting on a bench and a two-year stint (30-28 record) with Brown in the Ivy League really enough to prove a guy is ready for a power conference job? Should the hundreds of career assistants out there with just as much, if not more, experience start polishing off their resumes?
Similar to how millions of Americans fell head over heels for Robinson's brother-in law around the same time, the college basketball community was smitten with OSU's new coach from the get-go. But I'll be damned if one year into his shiny new gig, with an 18-18 campaign and an impressive CBI championship behind him, the Robinson love finally had some legs to stand on. And not because of a powerful speech or a laundry list of upcoming goals to be achieved. The proof of Robinson's immediate value was very much evident in the results he churned out. Just like it should be.
This of course made Oregon State looked like a bunch of geniuses. And why not? Robinson instilled discipline right away, handled the media well, and had this unmistakable aura about him. Most everyone close to the program felt like this was a team on the up-and-up. Not only that, but an even higher prestige job could be awaiting Robinson if he played his cards right. That was two years ago.
So what happened?
Rather eerily, Robinson's career trajectory has mirrored his brother in-law's popularity rating. The applause-worthy first season kicked off the hype-train, but things have completely regressed since. Robinson's Beavers eeked out only 14 wins in 2009-10, and then dropped all the way to 10 this past year. If you're scoring at home, that puts Robinson's career record at 43-56, a mark that looks even worse when you consider 24 of those wins are from the last two seasons.
Now normally, a sinking W/L record over a three year span is cause for future termination for most power conference coaches. At the very least it should force the man into a do-or-die situation heading into the upcoming season. But aside from drawing occasional heat from some local fans, Robinson has managed to consistently escape widespread criticism for his performance. The so-called hot seat that publicly tests the mettle of coaches in this sport doesn't appear to be offering the same type of threat for Robinson that it does for his peers. You might even go as far to say the threat level in central western Oregon has be de-elevated.
Maybe Oregon State is so overly grateful for that CBI victory that it has no qualms about giving Robinson roughly the next decade as a thank-you. Maybe the sheer amount of publicity from having ties to a current/former President is a relationship the school doesn't plan to willingly sever. Whatever the case, it's hard to imagine how he would deserve to keep his job after another woeful campaign.
Look, Robinson is a good man who's done an admirable job in Corvallis. But the results he's churning out are starting to become indefensible, even for a guy who seemingly has a longer leash than most. Respected analysts seem to think the Beavers could be a threat in 2011-12, even though we've clearly heard that before.
Oregon State has Robinson locked up through the 2015-16 season, and it's conceivable that the school expects him to finish out his contract before looking elsewhere. However, that's not to say further regression from his basketball program won't force athletic director Bob De Carolis' hand.