Craig Robinson Firing Signals Major Setback for Oregon State Basketball

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMay 5, 2014

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 08:  Head coach Craig Robinson of the Oregon State Beavers calls out in the first half while taking on the Washington Huskies during the quarterfinals of the 2012 Pacific Life Pac-12 basketball tournament at Staples Center on March 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It's been 24 years since Oregon State earned an NCAA tournament berth, and following the firing of head coach Craig Robinson, it appears that the Beavers will have to wait even longer to get back to the Big Dance.

On Monday, university athletic director Bob De Carolis announced the decision to usher in a new era in Corvallis, per USA Today Sports:

"I want to thank Coach Robinson and his family for their contributions to Oregon State University. This was a difficult decision, but after further evaluation, I believe it is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our basketball program and our University."

While Robinson's 93-104 record over six seasons at Oregon State screams mediocrity, axing him won't put the Beavers on a quicker path to prominence.

Instead, Oregon State will now have to start from scratch, as it did six years ago when it hired Robinson, the brother of first lady Michelle Obama.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 12:  Joseph Young #3 of the Oregon Ducks drives against Hallice Cooke #3 of the Oregon State Beavers during a first-round game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 12, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Oregon State has had five different head coaches since the start of the new millennium, and none of them posted winning records during their time in Corvallis. In fact, Robinson's .469 winning percentage is the best since the Ralph Miller era (1971-1989).

On top of that, Robinson inherited a team that finished 6-25 the year before he arrived (2007-08) and led it to the College Basketball Invitational championship the following season, finishing 18-18. 

Although he led the Beavers to just one winning season after that (2011-12), building a marquee college basketball program takes time, especially in a premier conference like the Pac-12, which features a handful of storied programs. 

Keep in mind that Oregon State's 8-10 conference record last season was just two wins fewer than third-place Oregon, who finished 10-8. So while Robinson didn't achieve the results De Carolis and others in Corvallis were looking for, he was clearly improving on what he had acquired. 

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 26:  Head Coach Craig Robinson of the Oregon State Beavers speaks to his team during their game against the Towson Tigers at the Towson Center on November 26, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The first lady's brother, Craig Robinson,
Pool/Getty Images

And unless Oregon State can bring in a big name who can recruit the top-flight talent it requires to win right away, the Beavers are worse off than they were under Robinson.

In addition to bringing some consistency to the program, even if it was mediocre, Robinson had just landed Maryland transfer Nick Faust, an explosive 6'6" shooting guard who averaged 9.4 points in 27.4 minutes per game last season as a junior. 

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 08:  Nick Faust #5 of the Maryland Terrapins drives for a dunk past Travis McKie #30 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their first round game of 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conferene Tournament at Philips Arena on March 8, 2012 in
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

After committing to Oregon State on Tuesday, Faust's father pointed to Robinson as a key reason for his son's change of heart, per The Washington Post's Alex Prewitt:

Oregon State recruited Nick from day one coming out of high school. After looking at Craig Robinson’s program and having several conversations with Craig Robinson early on in Nick’s career, before he even committed to go to any college, Craig Robinson was the type of guy I thought Nick would have been a better fit for, but that’s just my opinion.

Robinson's firing also comes at a head-scratching time, nearly two months after the Beavers' season ended in the 2014 CBI tournament, as noted by ESPN analyst Dick Vitale:

Not to mention he still had three years left on his contract and is owed more than $4 million, per USA Today Sports.

While patience is a rare trait in college sports today, Oregon State's decision to fire Robinson in the midst of the offseason with several years remaining on his contract signals a major setback for a program that has had just one winning season over the past nine years; the lone season coming under Robinson's watch. 

Although Robinson failed to mold Oregon State into a consistent winner during his first six seasons, he certainly restored it to respectability by leading the Beavers to multiple postseason appearances. 

Landing a coach with the tools to lead Oregon State back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990 will be a tall order for De Carolis. And finding someone capable of luring top players away from UCLA and Arizona on a consistent basis is another challenge altogether.

Maybe Oregon State wasn't going to take the next step under Robinson, but unless it hires a game-changing name, the Beavers are one step further away from being a perennial contender in the Pac-12.

 

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