OSU's Robinson let go
CORVALLIS — On March 28, athletic director Bob De Carolis donned his proverbial "orange-colored glasses" when he issued a statement reaffirming support in Craig Robinson as Oregon State's head men's basketball coach.
The lenses' color changed over the past five or so weeks. Attrition within the program and dwindling fan support made the glasses transparent, more capable of seeing a harsh reality: The Beavers, fresh off yet another disappointing season, needed a change in leadership.
De Carolis called Robinson last Thursday. He told OSU's six-year headman, "I changed my mind." The weekend came and went. By Monday afternoon, De Carolis stood before a throng of media and admitted to making a mistake.
"I was looking at it through orange-colored glasses," De Carolis said of his March decision to retain Robinson. "As I looked at it after I had made the decision, and just went back and re-evaluated all those thoughts, I was coming from a different place."
Undiscerning desire had blurred De Carolis' decision making. He wanted so desperately for Robinson to thrive in Corvallis, the AD conceded, that he initially failed to understand that the tenure was beyond repair.
Reluctance to stomach Robinson's contract, a $4.2 million sum that runs through 2017 and could deflate a budget-strapped athletic department, significantly contributed to the March 28 decision. After all, De Carolis said, "it's always about the money."
In recent weeks, he began doubting his strongly worded letter of support. He saw three players with remaining eligibility — forward Eric Moreland (NBA draft), and guards Hallice Cooke (transfer) and Challe Barton (overseas career) — leave the program.
With its top five scorers gone from a team that lost in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational, OSU seemed headed toward a rebuild. Improving on the worst attendance in Gill Coliseum history was unlikely — at least without a new beginning.
As of Monday's press conference, the AD hadn't spoken with possible candidates. Yet he feels confident he won't labor through a repeat of 2008, when a number of coaches reportedly rejected De Carolis' pitch to take over a team that had just finished winless in conference play.
Robinson made OSU a more desirable job, he said. The president's brother-in-law raised about $15 million for the Beavers' new practice facility, which De Carolis called a "game changer." He proved that OSU can land highly touted recruits.
"He got us to a different spot, which was good," De Carolis said. "We just feel that to get to the next spot, we needed a fresh start."
Such change comes with considerable repercussions. No donors are expected to help OSU with Robinson's sizable contract, which the athletic department will pay off in 38 monthly installments. The cost will lessen should Robinson take another job in the meantime.
At this point, the roster remains in flux. The four incoming signees, as well as Maryland transfer Nick Faust, chose the Beavers largely for Robinson's tutelage. De Carolis said OSU will grant any displeased prospects a release if necessary. And though folks close to the program believe no current players will transfer, guard Langston Morrison-Walker told The Oregonian that "you never know."
Uncertainty also hangs over Robinson's coaching staff. De Carolis didn't address the assistants' status because he had yet to talk with them. He did mention, though, that an interim head coach will be named from the staff.
As for Robinson's replacement? De Carolis plans to be "fast, but deliberate." He mentioned more than once that media speculation, not a search firm, will assist OSU's pursuit. As the scrum of reporters began filing toward the media room exits Monday, De Carolis said, "We'll see you in maybe two weeks with a new coach."
Gone were the orange-colored glasses. Clear bifocals rested on his nose.