Craig Robinson is the host of Ways to Win. He’s the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). From 2017-2020, he served as the VP of Player Development for the New York Knicks. Previously, he was a Division I head men’s basketball coach at Oregon State and Brown. He also is the brother of former First Lady Michelle Obama.

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The Learning Leader Show

  • What Craig learned from Coach Pete Carill about recruiting: There is a sales element to it. And one of the most important skills to develop is to become a great LISTENER. Ask questions, listen, and ask more questions. Curiosity is the ultimate form of respect. Coach Carill won over Craig’s dad because he was curious. That’s a good lesson for all of us.
  • President Obama (Craig’s brother-in-law) said Craig’s discipline and diligence enhanced his presidential campaign. “Craig doesn’t profess to know the specifics of politics the way he knows the X’s and O’s of basketball, but I think what he does understand is the need to wake up every morning doing your best and having a positive attitude. And him communicating that to me was always very helpful.”
  • When (future President) Barack Obama was dating Craig’s sister (Michelle), he told their family at Thanksgiving dinner that he had aspirations and a plan to be the President of the United States. It seemed crazy at the time, but he made it happen.
  • What are the “must-have” qualities to be a coach on Craig’s staff?
    • Connect with people
    • Lifelong learning
    • Curiosity
    • Fill in gaps (be strong where Craig is not)
    • Must be a good listener
  • What Craig looked for in a player when recruiting:
    • Baseline talent (table stakes)
    • 2-3 “bucket-getters”
    • High IQ
    • Flexible
  • After graduating from Princeton, where he played for Pete Carril and was twice named the Ivy League player of the year, Criag wanted to coach. Instead, he went to graduate school and succeeded in the financial world, including spending seven years as a vice president at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. Then, he pivoted away and took an assistant job on Bill Carmody’s staff at Northwestern. That job eventually led Robinson to Brown, where in two seasons he overhauled the program with his work ethic, tough love, and relentless demands on his players. He put a dictionary in the locker room for players to look up the words he used, a tradition that has continued at Oregon State.
    • What made him not immediately go into coaching? Pete Craill telling him to get a real job. It’s amazing the influence the people we look up to can have on us.
  • Craig’s fondest memory?
    • January 20, 2009. He went to President Obama’s inauguration in Washington D.C. He then flew to a game on the west coast (as the head coach of Oregon State). And received a standing ovation from the visiting team’s crowd as he walked out!
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Time Stamps

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