BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Find anyone who was associated with Maumee High School in the 1980s and ‘90s, and the opinion is unanimous – there were few people more influential or more impactful than Jim Robinson Sr.
The former boys basketball and softball coach for the Panthers will have yet another well-deserved honor bestowed upon him this upcoming season when the basketball court at Maumee is dedicated in his honor.
“It’s humbling,” Robinson said. “I have no words for it. These kids – they’re now men and women – it’s just very difficult to not be humbled by the whole situation. Hopefully it’s a good sign of what I tried to teach and the type of person I tried to be during my career.”
Coaching Career: From Humble Beginnings
Robinson coached basketball at Maumee for a total of 21 years over two stints, winning 297 games and seven Northern Lakes League titles. His Maumee teams appeared in five district championship games as well.
His overall coaching resume is even more staggering – 531 career wins, 12 league titles, nine sectional crowns, 12 league Coach of the Year awards and a spot in two Halls of Fame.
For Robinson, though, all of those wins and honors and awards don’t add up to the most important aspect of being a coach and what he hopes he’s most remembered for.
“That he cared about his kids, I think that would be the most important thing,” Robinson said. “There are basketball stats and there is real-life living. Working with the teams I had the pleasure of working with for all these years, this started for me at a small church in Point Place.”
Robinson began his coaching journey at that church, coaching a seventh-grade team. His path has taken him to high schools in Columbus, Cincinnati and Lima, along with stops at Toledo Libbey, Maumee Valley Country Day, Lake and Milan, Mich.
He also coached for three seasons at the University of Akron, but a bad housing market and a desire to be with his wife and children back in Perrysburg ended his college coaching career – and began his career at Maumee.
“It was the best thing I could have ever done,” Robinson said. “Coming back to Maumee was coming home.”
Who’s Who Of Maumee Basketball
The list of players and community members who supported the effort to rename the court for Robinson reads like a who’s who of Maumee basketball – Nick Porter, Josh Culling, Brian Chapman, Bryan Borcherdt and the coach’s son, Jim Robinson Jr.
Many of them wrote letters or appeared before the Maumee City Schools Board of Education during an April meeting. The board unanimously approved the proposal.
“Over the past five months, I have personally spoken to over a hundred people who credit Coach Robinson for having a direct impact on the person that they are today,” Porter said. “For years, the name Coach Robinson was synonymous with Maumee.
“He represented everything positive about the basketball program, the school and the entire district. A district whose mission is to be a community that invests in every child, every day, to ensure all students find their success. Coach Robinson is the embodiment of this idea.
“We are all better for having known him. By dedicating the basketball court in his name, the board of education recognized an opportunity to take steps toward fulfilling its mission and ensuring that the principles and values that Coach lives by will continue to inspire future generations and help them find their success, the same way they did for all of us.”
Porter said the group wanted to be thorough in its presentation to the board, so he began the process five months beforehand. That included calling in people outside of former Robinson players, such as Maumee staff member Terri Mortemore.
It also included current Otsego Superintendent Kevin O’Shea, who was a captain on one of Robinson’s teams at Maumee before playing for three seasons at Defiance College.
O’Shea grew up idolizing the players on Robinson’s teams in the mid- to late-1990s, calling him a “local legend.”
He also recalled his first meeting with the coach, a sort of “scared straight” situation when O’Shea was in elementary school.
“Anyone that knew me at that age would tell you I was ‘full of energy,’ to put it nicely,” O’Shea said. “I found myself in the principal’s office quite a bit.
“I can remember meeting Coach Robinson for the first time at my sister’s graduation party in 1998. He was sitting on my back porch and called me over to him. He asked me if I wanted to play for him someday.
“I was star-struck and told him yes, and I will never forget what he said to me. He told me if I kept acting the way he had heard I was, then I would never see the court on one of his teams. He said if I wanted to play for him then I would have to clean up my act.
“I was in complete shock. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I have to show him how bad I want to play for him.’
“He also gave me advice about being successful later in life and has stayed in touch with me over the years.”
Borcherdt was another successful player under Robinson, averaging 31 points per game as a senior. He ended up among the coaching ranks himself, guiding the varsity program at Anthony Wayne. He said it was clear what he wanted to do with the Generals because of his experience with Robinson.
“The impact Coach has had on me as a person is quite honestly the most important,” Borcherdt said during his speech to the board. “Winning games and championships is nice, but the lessons we learned along the way – often taught in sayings all over the gym or in his yellow legal notepad – are what stay with us to this day.
“Coach’s impact didn’t stop at Maumee, but for many of us who learned from him, the success and championships we would go on to win both on and off the court were a direct result of his impact on us.”
Special Bond: Father And Son
One of the most impactful players for Coach Robinson was his son, who played three varsity seasons for the Panthers from 1992-95. In fact, the one game both Robinsons mentioned happened during the younger Robinson’s junior season.
Perrysburg was favored to win the NLL in the 1993-94 season and had beaten Maumee in the first game. The rematch of an undefeated Perrysburg team and a one-loss Maumee side went to overtime, and with 8.4 seconds left, the Panthers inbounded the ball. It ended up in the hands of Robinson Jr., who made a 3-pointer as time expired for a one-point win.
“We call that ‘The Shot’ to this day,” Robinson Sr. said.
That season ended with another NLL title for the Panthers.
Father and son eventually coached together, experiences Robinson Sr. wouldn’t trade for anything. He remembered staying up all night with his son after games, dissecting film from that night while studying upcoming opponents.
“He was a great son,” Robinson Sr. said. “He lived those years with me. The time spent with my son was a wonderful time in my life.”
Robinson Jr., who now lives in California but speaks routinely with his dad, said growing up in his house was special.
“There was always a lesson to be learned, always a technique demonstrated to help achieve a higher level of success,” he said. “He helped me appreciate the need for thoroughness in everything I did.
“This included even the most basic of life skills like holding a steak knife properly while cutting, how to chop wood efficiently or creating a pristine grass pattern with the lawnmower.
“Paying attention to detail carried over into sports as he honed my athletic skills as a quarterback and shooting guard with constant repetition of fundamentals, demonstrating a relentless work ethic and the ever-important lesson of teaching me how to manage both mental and physical fatigue.”
The bond father and son formed both on and off the basketball court continues, with son still turning to father for advice.
“There was never any judgment, just love and compassion,” Robinson Jr. said. “He always had what seemed to be the perfect advice for any situation that might be troubling me. That hasn’t changed in 2022 either. Even at 44 years old, I still find myself seeking his counsel.”
Impact Spreads Beyond Basketball
That influence extended far beyond the Robinson family and still resonates with Robinson Sr.’s former players to this day. A private Facebook group Porter started to support the court renaming has more than 100 members.
“Outside of my own parents, no single person is more responsible for helping shape the man that I am today,” Porter said. “From a basketball perspective, Coach Robinson is one of the greatest minds in the history of Ohio high school basketball, but the values and lessons he taught his players transcend sport.
“He instilled discipline and taught us to establish habits that are the foundation of success both on and off the court. He moved us to reach our full potential by requiring that we hold ourselves to a higher standard.
“Those who played for Coach Robinson are better today because he demanded we be then.”
Robinson also coached softball and his impact was felt no less there, either. Kim (Gavorski) Schriner, a 1988 Maumee grad who played softball for Robinson before going on to play at Tiffin University, said he was like a second dad to her.
She recalled two times in particular when Robinson visited her house.
During one practice, she had trouble controlling her pitches and hit Robinson in the shin with a stray ball. She left practice upset with herself and Robinson showed up at her family’s doorstep to make sure she was OK.
“Coach came over because he knew how upset I was and took me for a drive,” she said. “He wanted to make sure I was good after being upset and remind me we all have bad days, but that’s OK. He took me to Dudley’s on Reynolds Road for hot dogs and just to talk and make me feel better after the bad day I was having.”
Schriner’s second memory came after her father passed away during her junior year at Tiffin. Even though she was no longer on the Maumee roster, Robinson showed up and supported her.
“Coach stopped at the house again to take me for a ride so we could talk,” she said. “He just wanted to make sure I was doing OK and let me know he was there for me if I needed anything.
“Coach cared for his students and athletes above and beyond the games.”
There is no date set yet for the court dedication ceremony, but Robinson will be there, along with what is sure to be a horde of former players and students.
For the former coach who made his career helping and caring for his players and students, those interactions are sure to mean more than seeing his name on the court.
“When you work with that many players over that many years, you have a lot of chances to help them,” Robinson said, “and they help you as well. I loved being a coach and I loved being with the kids.”