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Life and basketball with Milligan coach Bill Robinson

Kassi Butcher • May 7, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Later this year, Bill Robinson will enter his 12th season as head coach of the Milligan College men's basketball program.

Robinson came to Milligan after 12 seasons at the helm of the Montreat College basketball program and guided the Buffs to NAIA national championship tournament appearances in 2015 and 2018. The appearance in 2015 marked Milligan's first since 2001.

Robinson has had two players named All-American while at Milligan with the most recent being 2019 graduate Aaron Levarity. In his second season at Milligan, Robinson led the Buffaloes to their first Appalachian Athletic Conference regular season championship in 10 years. The Buffs went 17-12 that season (2010-11), and Robinson earned his fourth conference coach of the year award (first at Milligan).

During Robinson’s first two years at Milligan, his players won a number of individual awards. Cordero Seymour was an All-American honorable mention, there were four All-AAC performers, Tim Harper in 2011 earned defensive player of the year recognition and Kyle Grisby, also in 2011, was named freshman of the year.

Below Robinson discusses his time at Milligan as a coach and a parent and the experiences that he has had over the years:

Q: What was it like coming to coach for Milligan after coaching for a rival college?

A: Coming to Milligan after being at Montreat for 12 years was BRUTAL. Especially coaching against players that I had recruited and coaching against head coaches that were good friends. It’s still not easy but is has gotten better. We had great years at Montreat, our kids grew up on that campus, but the Lord made it very clear that it was time to go and the years at Milligan have been wonderful. And it is easy now to look back and see that the Lord had directed our path. This is where we are supposed to be.

Q: What is one of your favorite memories from coaching?

A: One of my favorite memories of coaching was senior night for my son, Will. He went through so many injuries during his career here at Milligan and we didn’t know if he would finish actually playing on the court. He scored a career-high 34 points the game before senior night and then didn’t even take a shot that last home game. It just wasn’t important to him to score, all he wanted to do was win. But to honor him that night along with the other seniors will always be a great memory.

Q: You now get the opportunity to coach with your son after coaching him at Milligan and you also got to watch your daughter’s successful basketball career at Milligan. What have those experiences been like?

A: It was harder to coach my son than I thought it would be. He had major injuries three times: concussion and torn patella tendons in both knees. It’s hard to focus as a coach and a dad when your kid is in pain. I also do all the officiating in practice and when a 50/50 call happens and he was involved in the play, it always made it difficult because I was either going to get accused of benefitting him because he was my son or he was going to be mad at me for making a bad call against him. Having Sarah play here was awesome! To watch her development both on and off the court as a young woman has been incredible for my wife and me. The hard part was trying to figure out how to prepare for my game while still watching her play. It became tricky and I would often get emotionally involved in her game and then have to shift my focus to get emotionally ready for my game. It wasn’t easy but I will cherish those years.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a coach?

A: The most rewarding part of coaching is to form relationships with players that I hope will last a lifetime. I tell my guys I don’t want to say or do something to try to win a game that will keep us from being friends 10 years from now. I still get messages on Father’s Day from former players. It is way more important than wins and losses.

Q: What coaching philosophy have you held onto over the years?

A: First page of our Team Manual is my philosophy: PEOPLE are more important than PROGRAM. PROGRAM is more important than WINNING. WINNING IS IMPORTANT! But we will not sacrifice people or program to win games. Winning is important because if I am not good at my job, my players won’t listen to what I have to say about life or my Christian walk. We will still have to win at a certain level on the court to earn respect enough to have influence off the court.

Q: What are you looking forward to next season with your team?

A: Next year I am looking forward to CHANGE! I know that sounds weird, but we are graduating seven seniors this year including all five starters. Seven of our top eight scorers will be gone and we will have somewhere between 8-10 new varsity players in August. So, practices should be much more competitive, and we have the ability to make changes within our program now that we have lost so many. This is the time where we can add new things that I want to try and get rid of things I don’t like from the past. Change can be hard because I love this year’s graduating group. But change can also bring energy to a new group.

Q: What is your biggest piece of advice for your athletes, and athletes at Milligan in general?

A: Best advice I can give athletes at Milligan is to keep a balance in your life. Milligan is challenging academically and athletically you always strive to be the best you can be. But balance is needed to develop relationships and have fun during your college years. In my opinion, college life is the best time of your life! You are developing friendships that will last a lifetime. You need to do more than just be a student-athlete. You need to grow in your faith and grow as person.

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