UNC Basketball made a mistake letting Steve Robinson go

Mar 2, 2019; Clemson, SC, USA; North Carolina assistant coach Steve Robinson reacts during the first half against the Clemson Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2019; Clemson, SC, USA; North Carolina assistant coach Steve Robinson reacts during the first half against the Clemson Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports /

Did the UNC basketball program make a mistake letting longtime assistant coach Steve Robinson go in the most recent coaching transition?

When Hubert Davis was handed the keys to the UNC basketball program now two and a half years ago, one of the first things he did was let Steve Robinson, a longtime Roy Williams assistant coach, go from the current coaching staff.

This ultimately did two things…

First, it symbolized that it was officially Hubert’s program going forward and his decisions. There was some speculation Williams would be retiring but still have his footprint on decisions around the basketball program, this decision proved otherwise.

The second thing it did was set in motion a set of events that Hubert would be hiring strictly “Carolina guys” and no “outsiders”.

There’s some major controversy revolving around this decision. Hubert played for Dean Smith and learned under Roy Williams, both of who preached the Carolina family, and that has been a staple within the UNC basketball program for decades.

Steve Robinson was an assistant coach for Roy Williams for seven years at Kansas from 1988-1995 and then rejoined Williams on the Tar Heel sideline in 2002. He was Williams’ right-hand man for over a decade at Carolina and was well-trusted as a coach and a recruiter.

In 2019, he was inducted into the A Step Above Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame. He was part of recruiting top NBA talent players under Williams, including UNC basketball greats Marvin Williams, Harrison Barnes, Nassir Little, and more.

It is also known that Robinson worked primarily with the guards in practice on a daily basis, including developing and mentoring Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson, and Kendall Marshall. So if Robinson was trusted by Williams to be that involved within the UNC basketball program, why did he not earn the right to stay on Hubert Davis’ staff?

Well, Steve Robinson isn’t an alum of North Carolina and didn’t meet the criteria for Hubert to have him on staff, and that was ultimately a “deal-breaker” for Davis.

Should it have been? Probably not.

While Robinson didn’t go to Carolina, he had been around the program long enough that the exception should have been made.

Having that much coaching experience sitting beside a first-time head coach could have been helpful, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Instead, Robinson was released and then hired on as the assistant coach on Tommy Lloyd’s staff at Arizona.

He has coached a total of 57 NBA players… to throw all of the experience and expertise at high-level Division I college basketball out the door because he didn’t attend a specific school may have been too absurd.

Twenty or thirty years ago, the decision makes a lot more sense than it did in 2021. The Carolina Family still exists, there is no debating that.

But does it matter as much as it did then?

Additionally, do top high school recruits really care anymore?

The top players are looking for the fastest path to the NBA, and if that is a one-and-done route, do they really hang around a program long enough to develop a relationship with the coaches, teammates, program, and fans? Are they part of the family?

The family was developed when the program had four-year players, and they spent every day for four years together, not eight months (or even two years). Add the transfer portal into the one-and-done factor, and players are coming through the program and leaving before even graduating. We saw it more this past off-season than ever before with seven players hitting the portal.

It may be a controversial topic among the UNC basketball fanbase, but Robinson was a valuable asset to Roy Williams and had the opportunity to provide the same benefits to Hubert had he been given the chance.

One other thing too… the person who is responsible for starting the Carolina Family and who Hubert played for, Dean Smith, didn’t attend North Carolina either. So while being part of the family is important, is it everything? Robinson was basically like extended family or a long-lost cousin in Chapel Hill with how much time he spent on the sidelines.

What do you think? Should Hubert have kept Robinson on his coaching staff at UNC despite not being part of the “Carolina Family”?

Next. UNC Basketball: Former Tar Heel joins Jerry Stackhouse’s staff. dark

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