Craig Robinson on coaching, life and the Obamas -- National Book Festival

Craig Robinson
Basketball coach, author
Friday, September 24, 2010; 11:00 AM

Craig Robinson is the head men's basketball coach at Oregon State University and the former head coach at Brown University. He is also the older brother of Michelle Obama and brother-in-law of President Obama. He was online Friday, Sept. 24, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his book, "A Game of Character: A Family Journey from Chicago's Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond" and the National Book Festival (Saturday, Sept. 25).


Rosemont, IL.: Would you tell us how you motivate student athletes to devote time towards academics? This is the part of coaching that is seldom seem by sports writers and it rarely makes the press, unless something goes wrong and a student athlete is found cheating or fails. How involved are in in determining that your players are keeping up with their studies?

Craig Robinson: The first tactic I use is that I recruit players who have a respect for the academic process. Secondly, since I control playing time, I use that as a motivator to be serious about their academics. As far as involvement in their studies, I'm extremely involved. I conduct the study halls when we're on the road as opposed to having my assistants do it. I've also been known to show up unannounced at my players classes.


Chicago: OK, just between us, who got into more trouble as a child, you or Michelle? Who started more arguments? Did you have names you called each other besides your given names?

Craig Robinson: I was clearly in trouble more than my sister. I was the oldest and she was smart not to fall into the same traps that I did. Our nickname for my sister is Miche pronounced Meesh.


Washington, DC: Congrats on your book. I'm looking forward to reading it. I attended the OSU game against GW last year and plan on attending your game against Howard this season. When are you going to play my alma mater, Georgetown? :)

By the way, I had a chance to meet your wonderful mother at a friend's book party last week. She is the BEST! So warm and pleasant and approachable. She and I enjoyed the fried shrimp that was being passed.

Craig Robinson: Thank you for the kind words. We'll play Gtown anytime they agree to play us! We'd love to do it. My mom is exactly the way you see her. Very genuine. Thanks again for the note.


Silver Spring, Md.: Tell me one thing that you want readers to take from your book?

Craig Robinson: I hope that people take away the lessons I learned throughout my life from my family, friends, mentors and teachers and share them and use them to help others. The lessons resonate, in the boardroom, on the court and at the dinner table.


Chicago, IL.: If you had the chance, would you ever wish to serve in government? If so, what would you most like to do?

Craig Robinson: Probably not, I really enjoy teaching and coaching. If I did, it would probably be in the education arena.


Silver Spring, Md.: What inspired you to write the book?

Craig Robinson: My family was my inspiration for A Game of Character. Watching my parent raise to kids on the southside of Chicago on meager means, instilling hard work, discipline and compassion, I wanted to share their story and mine.


Chicago: What are some of the differences between coaching now and when you were at Brown? How did you attract players to play at Brown which offers no athletic scholarships?

Craig Robinson: The biggest difference is the level of the league competition. Secondly, recruiting elite high major talent and thirdly the emphasis on academics. At Brown the main selling point is an elite academic experience and at Oregon State the selling point is an elite basketball experience.


Houston,TX: How tough is the competition in the Pac-10?

Craig Robinson: Very tough. There are very good coaches at programs with historic winning cultures who have the ability to attract the best players. Washington will probably be picked to win again while AZ and UCLA will be right behind. I think we'll be fighting to be in the top half of the league.


Silver Spring: Truthfully, has your life changed since your sister became the first lady?

Craig Robinson: Absolutely! Along with the national recognition, there is also the human side of it. I'm approached often by people who just want to say hello to the First Family and pass along the good wishes. It has been astonishing to see how people really are passionate about our country.


Washington, D.C. : Craig, what roles, responsibilities, and insight do you think YOU as a "First Brother In-law" are obligated to fulfill. Also can you get me 2 tickets to a state dinner...I got a date I really would like to bring :) THANKS....hope you guys have a good season

Craig Robinson: I don't have any official duties. I like to support my sister and brother-in-law in whatever I can. There are no obligations. As far as state dinner tix, I haven't even gotten any yet :).


Amherst, Mass.: Mr. Robinson: First of all, hello. I lived near 74th and Constance in the '50s, went to Neri with Tony Carey, and have always had a great deal of respect for Mount Carmel, particularly for its record on the football field and the basketball court.

I have read that your late dad was a precinct captain. Did he serve the precinct where your family lived, or a precinct elsewhere in the 7th Ward, or a precinct outside of the 7th Ward?

The best of luck to you and your extended family.

Craig Robinson: Thanks for the wishes. St. Phillip Neri was very close to my grammar school! I believe my dad was precinct captain in the 5th ward, but I might be mistaken.


Book Festival: Where/when can we find you at the National Book Festival this weekend? Are you doing a reading, taking questions, signing, etc.?

Craig Robinson: I'll be mainly at the Contemporary Life pavilion. I'm speaking from 12:20 to 12:50 and signing books from 1:30 to 2:30. I'll also be taking some pics with students from a local school and doing a BookTV interview at 1:25.


Silver Spring, Md.: Is this your first book? Will you donate some of the proceeds to a good cause?

Craig Robinson: Yes this is my first book and I've really enjoyed the process. I will be donating some of the proceeds to a yet undetermined cause. Given that my dad had MS, I am looking in that direction.


Arlington, Va.: Do you remember your first impression when Michelle introduced Barack to the rest of the family? And how long did it take for you to accept him and feel like your sister was with a good guy?

Craig Robinson: Yes as a matter of fact. I write about it in A Game of Character. He was a really bright and engaging boyfriend. Great sense of humor and a very laid back personality. We all accepted him quickly and thought my sister would break up with him sooner rather than later. Ha.


Bethesda, Md.: Better player, you or your BiL? Who wins one-on-one?

Craig Robinson: At the height of our skills, I would say I was. We've never played one-on-one but I'm 6'6" and he's 6'1" so I have a bit of an advantage.


Washington, DC: Wonderful book! Congratulations. I am looking forward to seeing you at the Library of Congress's National Book Festival tomorrow!

Craig Robinson: Thank you very much. I'm really proud of A Game of Character and am really looking forward to the NBF. This will be my first Festival and I can't wait.


Brooklyn: The wife of Bill Clinton went on to become secretary of state. So in the name of progress I assume Michelle will be our first female president. What role would you like to have in her administration?

Craig Robinson: Ha! You better ask her that. If she is interested in running for something someday I would be behind her totally but I like my job as coach of the Oregon State Beavers. By the way, we have a New Yorker on my team this season. Devon Collier from the Bronx and St. Anthony's in Jersey City.


Craig Robinson: Thanks for the great questions. I hope you all get to read and enjoy A Game of Character. There is something for everyone. I'm signing off. All the best,



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