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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Radio show notes: Father and son

By Robbi Pickeral

North Carolina assistant coach Steve Robinson filled in for Roy Williams on the head coach’s radio show Monday night, as Williams was out recruiting. A few notes:

A 'NEAT' EXPERIENCE: After spending the past two seasons on the junior varsity team, Robinson’s youngest son -- Denzel -- made the varsity team this season as a walk-on, to the delight of his dad.

“It’s really pretty neat when you think about it that every day, I get to coach my own son and be around him," Robinson said. “I’ve spent so much of his life on the road, or coaching someone else’s kids, and now I have the chance to have him involved on a day-to-day basis. He’s done a nice job of coming to practice, playing hard, and understanding what needs to be done. He has an advantage in that he’s seen it from afar.”

Indeed, the Tar Heels’ bench is a familiar pace for Denzel, who began sitting there during games when Robinson came to Chapel Hill from Kansas with Williams. Robinson says he often has told his son he’s the luckiest kid in the world; and dad seems to feel pretty lucky, as well.

“Can you imagine what it’s like as a young kid, you’re sitting on the bench and you’re at the Carolina-Duke basketball game, and you’re in the seventh grade, and you’re in the huddle [before] Marvin Williams gets the offensive rebound and basket late in that game?” Robinson said.

“… And I’m glad it’s carried over that he’s become a true blue Carolina Tar Heel for life. And having the opportunity to experience those moments … riding on the bus, or after a big win, when we’re jumping around in the locker room, I can sneak over and see how involved he is. It’s just a neat experience. I’m probably more excited about it than he is about the opportunity.”

Asked if he’s a little tougher on Denzel during practice or games because of the family tie, Robinson laughed.

“He would tell you I get on him a little harder; I would say I keep an extra eye out on him," he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about doing what’s best and what’s right for our basketball program. At the end of the day, he understands that when we’re off the court, I’m dad; when we’re on the court, I’m coach.”

HUBERT IMPROVING: Defensive-minded sophomore Desmond Hubert has now started 12 games at center, and although the minutes at that position continue to rotate among a quartet of players, Hubert has shown improvement of late, especially in his aggressiveness.

“He keeps coming," Robinson said. “He has gotten better and better throughout the season. What’s he’s given us is what he has. He accepts and understands who he is as a player.

"A lot of times guys, they want to average 30 points a game and they want get 15 rebounds a game. We’ve got an advantage if they do that. But if that’s not what you do, and that’s not who you are at that time, then he can be effective by rebounding the basketball, playing good defense, setting good screens, helping guys get open. And he handles that, he understands that, and I think he’s gotten better.”

Robinson also said that UNC’s other players at that position -- Joel James, Brice Johnson, Jackson Simmons -- have also improved. But the Tar Heels still need more.

“Again, it’s by committee until one guy, hopefully at some point and time, starts to separate themselves with their play, their ability," he said. “But again, we’re talking about all four of those guys are either freshmen or sophomores.”

HEAD COACH AGAIN? Along with being an assistant for Williams at Kansas and UNC, Robinson has also been a head coach at Tulsa and Florida State.

The biggest difference between being an assistant and head coach? “I get to sleep so well at night," he said, referring to all the different pressures and responsibilities that go along with having the head job.

But, he added, he would one day like to have a top job again some day.

“I love working for him," Robinson said of Williams. “Would I be interested in being a head coach again? Yes. If the right opportunity comes, it would be something I would strongly, strongly consider.”

INJURY REPORT: Robinson said reserve guard Leslie McDonald, who has missed three games with a sore knee, is “showing some signs of improvement, getting better.” But the team did not practice Monday, and Williams said during the ACC teleconference earlier Monday that the team is hoping to know more about McDonald’s status after Tuesday’s practice.

QUOTE WORTHY: Robinson said ESPN is probably his favorite channel, because if he’s not watching game film, he’s trying to catch a few minutes of other basketball games here and there. Asked if he can ever enjoy a game without studying it like a coach, he chuckled.

“That’s like asking a person, ‘Do you ever get in a car and drive like you’ve never driven before?’” he said. “You know? You can’t help it. … You do it for a living, and 24 hours a day, seven days a week as a coach, and it’s hard to get away from it. I feel like some days, when I’m at home, I want to blow my whistle, and tell the kids, ‘Hey, you need to get over there and box out or wash those dishes.’

He laughed, again.

"They don’t listen to you there, and sometimes they don’t listen to you on the court, either."