He Did Not Go Gently
Eddie Robinson, who has won 405 games during a 55-year coaching career at Grambling, will be remembered as a legend. But even legends can become tarnished.
Early this month, Robinson learned of a movement among Grambling alumni—including many of his former players—to oust him. They were complaining about his coaching (for the first time in Robinson's tenure the Tigers, who went 3-8 this fall, suffered consecutive losing seasons) and contending that he had lost control of his program. Grambling is being investigated by the NCAA for the fixing of football players' grades, and school officials are looking into allegations that players were involved in a rape of a teenage girl in a Grambling dormitory. Faced with a groundswell supporting his removal, the 77-year-old Robinson went to university president Raymond Hicks last Thursday and asked for one last year as coach, so he could leave on a better note. The next day that request was granted.
It should not have been. Robinson, sad to say, has stayed on too long. The old master should have resigned gracefully, given his whistle to a younger man and moved into the vice president's chair that Grambling had waiting for him. He didn't do that because the legendary coach is no different from a legendary athlete, clinging to his career as if it were life itself. "People say I'm supposed to let a younger guy take over," Robinson said last week as he sat in his office and gnawed on the curious forces that had driven him to swim so forcefully against a strong tide. "Well, I'm not stepping down. I want to prove I can still win at this age. I've got a good feeling about getting this extra year. But I've got a touch of embarrassment that I had to ask for it."
Robinson, who has won more games than Bear Bryant or Amos Alonzo Stagg, proves nothing but his own stubbornness by trying to win a few more and delaying Grambling's future. Robinson recalls a chilling conversation he had in 1982 with the just-retired Bryant, who was to die shortly thereafter. "He said, 'Eddie, coach as long as you can. Once you get out, you're going to be bored slap to death,' " Robinson said. "I think about that a lot now. I ain't ready to sit in a rocking chair and wait for death to come calling on me."
But nobody was asking that of Robinson, who will be Grambling's eternal goodwill ambassador. The larger mission of educating youth still excites him, and he could teach in a lecture hall as well as a stadium. Instead, to indulge a mulish pride, he will coach one more year. Eddie Robinson today is just another college coach with too many losses and too many off-the-field problems. In the future he will get a slice of immortality. For the present he will get pity, and that's a shame.
Give Until It Hurts
'Tis the holiday season, and that's a good time to remember the Golden State Warriors, a franchise that through the years has given so much to so many other NBA teams, while generally receiving little in return. Wilt Chamberlain, who was a San Francisco Warrior when he was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1965, was traded for Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and cash. Robert Parish was sent to the Boston Celtics in '80 for two draft choices who became problem child Joe Barry Carroll and mediocre Rickey Brown. The Warriors' beneficent ways continue today. Consider that five players traded by Golden State now lead other teams in scoring: Chris Gatling (Dallas), Tom Gugliotta (Minnesota), Tim Hardaway (Miami), Mitch Richmond (Sacramento) and Chris Webber (Washington).
That's not a bad starting five, good enough, as we see it, to manhandle the current edition of the Warriors, who were 8-16 at week's end.
Canty Makes the Right Move