CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) -Now that his brother-in-law is headed for the White House, Craig Robinson turns his focus to his own campaign as coach of an Oregon State team in serious need of change.
Robinson was in Chicago on Tuesday to celebrate Barack Obama's victory, appearing onstage at the massive victory rally at Grant Park. Michelle Obama's big brother was back in Corvallis on Wednesday for practice with the Beavers.
``It doesn't get much better than that,'' he said of the trip. ``Although I would imagine that winning a Pac-10 championship would feel pretty good right about now.''
Robinson is embarking on his first season as head coach of Oregon State. The Beavers went 6-25 last season, including 0-18 in the Pac-10, becoming the first team to go winless in the league's regular season since it expanded from eight schools in 1978.
He came to Oregon State from Brown, where he had been coach for two years and went 30-28. The Bears went 19-10 last season and finished second to Cornell in the Ivy League, Brown's winningest season.
Hired by the Beavers in April, Robinson has campaigned for Obama on his own time.
On Tuesday afternoon in Chicago, Robinson joined a group - including his brother-in-law - that played basketball. Then they went to the Obama home for a quiet dinner. No television was on and no one answered calls.
Robinson said excitement began to build when the family could hear some cheers from outside. Then the helicopters started hovering above.
``We were thinking, `Hey, it must be going well,''' he said.
After the rally, Robinson took the children home while the Obamas stayed to thank supporters.
His ``Aha!'' moment came when his sister and her husband arrived home about 2 a.m. and came through the door.
``I was like, these people I've known all my life - are the president and the first lady,'' he said.
Then, Robinson said, they all sat down for a slice of pie.
Back in Corvallis, Robinson held practice for his players as the First Brother-In-Law-Elect.
``Coming from my personal view, it's pretty cool having a coach who is close to the president,'' senior guard Ricky Claitt said.
Robinson replaced Jay John, who was fired Jan. 21 and replaced in the interim by assistant Kevin Mouton.
The team's season was easily the lowlight of a more than decade-long slump. Oregon State has had just one winning season since 1990.
ice. A series of teams that featured such stars as Gary Payton, A.C. Green, Lester Conner and Steve Johnson went to the NCAA tournament eight times during the decade.
Robinson, who played at Princeton under Pete Carril from 1980-83, took the daunting job at Oregon State after Saint Mary's Randy Bennett and San Diego's Bill Grier both turned it down.
Robinson already has put some much-needed positive light on the Beavers. In August, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, introducing his little sister. Dressed in school colors with a black blazer and a bright orange tie, Robinson even sneaked in the shout-out ``Go Beavers!'' during the nationally televised speech.
Following that, highly touted shooting guard Roberto Nelson of Santa Barbara, Calif., reportedly gave his verbal commitment to Oregon State.
Among Robinson's changes at Oregon State are instilling a system based on the motion offense using backdoor cuts and a high number of passes that Carril popularized. He's already scheduled practices at 5:30 a.m. to establish a better work ethic.
The Beavers open the regular season Nov. 14 against Howard in Washington, D.C., and will be looking for their first win since Dec. 19, 2007, when they beat Northern Colorado.
Robinson is doubtful the Obamas will be able to make it, considering they have a new challenge, too.
``I tell you,'' he said, ``it's just starting to hit me how historic this is.''
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