The late Will Robinson was a pioneering basketball head coach who achieved a pair of significant firsts. He was the first Black head coach for a Division I NCAA basketball program, and the first Black basketball high school head coach in the state of Michigan.
Robinson was born June 3, 1911 in Wadesboro, N.C., and attended high school in Steubenville, Ohio where he became the only student to letter in five sports in state history. He went to attend West Virginia State University as a student-athlete and lettered in four sports.
Racist conditions in the state inspired Robinson to attend graduate school at the University of Michigan where he earned a master’s in physical education.
From 1943 to 1959, Robinson was the head coach for Sidney D. Miller Middle School. In 1960, he became head coach for Pershing High School, coaching future NBA stars such as Ralph Sampson, Spencer Haywood, and more.
In 1970, Illinois State University named him head coach where one of his top players, Doug Collins, would end up going number one in the 1973 NBA Draft to the Philadelphia 76ers.
He retired from the coaching post in 1975 and took a scouting job with the Detroit Pistons, discovering the likes of Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, and other Pistons greats. He retired from the team in 2003, which then named its locker room after him. The team ended up winning its third title the following year.
Will Robinson passed in 2008 at the age of 96.
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