COACH OF THE YEAR Robinson wins for the 10th time

Published 9:50 pm Saturday, April 19, 2014

If there’s one thing Dellie C. Robinson has learned in 22 years as Vicksburg High’s boys basketball coach, it’s not to become too enamored with a certain style of play.

When he’s had big men, he’s been willing to pound the ball inside. When his teams couldn’t shoot, he geared the game plan around defense. When superstars have been on the roster, he revolved everything around them.

So, three years ago, when he graduated more than a half-dozen seniors from a team that finished as the Class 6A runner-up, Robinson didn’t panic. He rolled up his sleeves and figured out what worked with his new group.

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What the 6-foot-5 mad scientist came up with was an offense that took advantage of the talent on an undersized roster that could shoot and run the floor. It worked to perfection.

Over three seasons, the formula succeeded to the tune of a 48-34 record and an appearance in this year’s Class 5A championship game. It also netted Robinson the Vicksburg Post Coach of the Year award for the 10th time.

“When I saw this group in ninth grade, I realized we weren’t going to have a lot of height, so I installed the dribble-drive offense. That was the difference in this ball club making it as far as they did,” said Robinson, who has won nearly 650 games in his career. “They’ll go down as one of the teams I’ve enjoyed. They gave it all they had. These kids are real special to me.”

Robinson’s willingness to adapt was on full display this season. His team carved a successful identity with its up-tempo style, but Robinson also knew that wasn’t going to bring them a state championship.

So, in January, he put the brakes on his team by employing a plodding half-court offense. It helped the Gators get a few wins, but that wasn’t its real purpose.

“We knew we couldn’t run with Callaway,” Robinson said, referring to the team that handed Vicksburg five of its nine losses — the last in the Class 5A championship game. “We didn’t think we could win a championship game with the fast break.”

Although the slow-down style didn’t ultimately win the Gators a gold ball, it did put them in position to play for one. They won slugfests with Ridgeland and Center Hill — one on a pair of late free throws, the other in double overtime — on the way to the Coliseum.

Robinson also returned to the half-court style in the state final against Callaway. It kept the Gators in the game for a bit, until injuries to point guards Edward Davis and Stefan Young made it ineffective.

“At the time, we were like ‘Why?’ We were a running team all season,” VHS senior guard De’Angelo Richardson said. “When we played Center Hill and Ridgeland, it made us realize it pays to slow it down.”

Heading into the 2014-15 season, the Gators are once again in need of a facelift. The core of its guard-oriented roster — seniors Richardson, Davis, De’Vonta Brisco and Le’Darrie Ward — are graduating. The next iteration of Vicksburg basketball figures to be built around forwards Kris Walker (8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this season) and sophomore-to-be Kirk Parker (3.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg).

Robinson is enthusiastic about the program’s potential for the next few years, but whether he’ll stick around to be the architect for the latest rebuilding job is in question.

Robinson has enough years put into the state’s public education system to be eligible for retirement. He’s spoken about it often over the years, only to change his mind.

Asked how much longer he’ll remain the Gators’ coach, and reminded of his past flirtations with retirement, Robinson just laughs.

“I’ll put it this way. Not long,” he said with a hearty chuckle. “Two months from now, two years or a year. All I know is not long.”

If retirement does come sooner rather than later, Robinson said the accomplishments of this year’s team would be a nice capstone to a long and successful career.

“If I go out this year, I’d be pleased,” he said. “They gave me everything they had and achieved. If I go out like this, it’d certainly be a good feeling for me.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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