The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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March 29, 2014

Robinson named Coach of Year

CLINTON — Don Robinson quietly has amassed 674 wins in 37 years as girls basketball coach at Prophetstown High School.

It’s not that no one has noticed. To the contrary, it’s hard to miss his 17 20-win seasons and 14 regional titles. But the mild-mannered Robinson has accomplished so much while rarely raising his voice.

He has proven that a coach doesn’t have to be demonstrative to find success. And this year, Robinson reached the pinnacle, guiding Prophetstown to its first trip to the Illinois state tournament and a runner-up finish in Class 2A.

In recognition of the 31-3 season, Robinson has been named Clinton Herald girls basketball Coach of the Year.

“For me it hasn’t seemed like it’s that long,” Robinson said of his coaching career that began with a 13-5 season in 1977-78. “The program is the way I want it set up. The momentum of it has been continuous. It gives kids a chance to win, but defeat is a fresh stimulus.

“What I like is it’s like a jigsaw puzzle — you find the right pieces for a successful team.”

The pieces fell in place well this winter. Despite losing a pair of seniors from last year’s Herald All-Area team, the Prophets didn’t miss a beat this season. With Corrie Reiley and Clare Kramer leading a junior-dominated team, Prophetstown rolled through the Three Rivers Conference season unbeaten and won its last 18 regular-season games after a loss to an Annawan team that went on to win the 1A state title.

Next came the 14th regional title during Robinson’s tenure, followed by his second sectional crown. When the Prophets beat El Paso-Gridley 58-48 on Feb. 24, they had their first super-sectional title and Robinson’s first trip downstate as a coach.

They beat IC Catholic of Elmhurst 57-48 in the state semifinals before falling 70-34 in the final to Champaign St. Thomas More.

Robinson said it had been rewarding staying in Prophetstown.

“Early in my career I said I was not looking for anyplace to go because of the loyalty here,” he said. “Jim Valvano once said, ‘Don’t mess with happiness.’ “

His family has shared in the happiness, too.

“I try to visit my dad and my mother-in-law on Sundays,” he said. “My brother came to watch. My dad, 85, was there. He rode a school bus to the first game of the sectional tournament. He wanted to see that game.”

Robinson has repaid that loyalty many times over, and his former players have stayed in touch with Robinson and his wife, creating lasting friendships.

Robinson and the program have become one over time, creating a bond that will be tough to break.

Even though Robinson had said he would coach just one more season, he’s not so sure about that anymore.

“I’m re-weighing what my plans are,” he said. “I have put in for retirement from teaching. (But) there are a lot of young kids who are loyal to me, and I don’t know if I can let them go.”

 

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