Basketball is far from everything for Jerome Robinson.
But for about two decades now since growing up in the Toronto area to playing college basketball at Bradley to playing for the Canadian National Team to playing overseas and then getting into coaching, including for the past three years with the New Mexico Lobos, basketball sure has been the most demanding and time-consuming part of his life.
For now, he’s decided to “hit the reset” and step away from coaching, leaving the Lobos staff with an assistant coaching vacancy for the 2020-21 season.
“It’s more of a personal decision on my part,” Robinson said of the move, which comes as his most recent two-year contract with the program came to an end. Instead of signing on for a new contract, as assistant coaches Brandon Mason and Dan McHale have done, Robinson said he decided to take a step back, although he isn’t yet sure what exactly that might lead to or if basketball will even be a part of it.
“There’s different things that I’m looking at and looking to possibly do,” Robinson said. “And, you know, some of them are actually career change things.”
The 40-year-old husband and father of three, including two familiar ball boys at all Pit games, said the decision was hard enough. But finally breaking it to his players – current Lobos and past ones he stays in regular contact with like Joe Furstinger, Sam Logwood and Anthony Mathis – was even worse.
“Man, I love, love Albuquerque and I love the Lobos and everything the Lobos stand for,” Robinson said. “And probably the hardest thing was, you know, telling the players. … Just the messages I got from the players and talking to them on the phone, it was – it was tough, man. The time and the emotional devotion to trying to get a kid to campus, you develop a bond with them.”
Robinson added Albuquerque, not just UNM and the Lobos, grabbed hold of him in a way he may not have expected.
“The people that I’ve met who I call friends, those are those are the people I’m gonna miss,” Robinson said. “New Mexican people, man, they’re a tough, resilient, passionate, genuine group of people, and the friends that we’ve made here, they’re the epitome of what I just stated.”
Robinson said he loves the Lobos and plans to follow them moving forward. The team, and head coach Paul Weir, will now search for his replacement on the four-person coaching staff that now consists of Weir, McHale and Mason.
While there is a hiring freeze for most positions in UNM athletics, athletic director Eddie Nuñez confirmed assistant coaching positions and a few others (for instance there is a current opening for a ticketing director) may be filled.
The two-year contracts of Mason and Robinson, each paid $170,000 this past year, expired April 30, though each were compensated through May under the same terms. McHale, hired just last summer, is in the middle of a two-year contract.
Weir said both McHale and Mason will have new contracts moving forward, though details on those are not yet public. The three assistant coaches this past year had a combined salary pool of $490,000. That is not changing for the coming season, but it is unclear how it will be used for the NCAA-allowable three assistant positions.
Weir is considering external and internal candidates. The Lobos’ non-assistant support staff currently includes past Lobo assistant coach Craig Snow, who is now special assistant to the head coach, and Ralph Davis, director of operations.
NCAA DEAD PERIOD: The NCAA on Wednesday announced the recruiting “dead period” this offseason will now extend through July 31. That eliminates any chance of in-person recruiting over the summer. July is traditionally the busiest month for in-person evaluation of players at summer club tournaments and showcases.
The NCAA also ruled Wednesday that strength coaches can return to overseeing virtual workouts through video conferencing platforms like Zoom. While teams were doing that initially after players were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA in April put a stop to them; some schools even expressed concerns about liability of training over video conference if players were hurt during the workout .
UNM has not yet decided how it will move forward with virtual workouts as it relates to the new NCAA decision and there is still not yet a decision by UNM when athletes will begin returning to campus.