COLUMBIA — When Lynnette Robinson was a senior on the Illinois women’s basketball team, she played with a point guard she described as an on-the-floor extension of the coach. Now she, along with fellow Illinois grad Allison Guth, will be working under that point guard, MU women’s basketball coach Cindy Stein.
Robinson will be Stein’s second in command as associate head coach and Guth will serve as assistant head coach. While both share Stein’s alma mater, that didn’t play a factor in their hiring.
“It’s not on purpose, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Stein said.
Stein’s relationship with Robinson played a part in the decision to hire Robinson because she knew she was trustworthy and a good person. But it wasn’t the main factor.
“The key is to hire the best person for the position,” Stein said. “If that happens to be someone that is a friend, that’s great, but that’s not the prerequisite. There’s always a comfort level knowing someone, obviously.”
That comfort level led Stein to give Robinson the associate head coach position. It carries more responsibility because Robinson would take over if Stein had to be away from the program for any reason.
“That’s someone you know and trust that is going to teach things the way you would have taught it with their own little flavor but they can handle the job,” Stein said. “It’s somebody you can totally trust, somebody that has a such a good feel of every aspect of the program, so obviously experience is really key.”
Robinson and Guth will bring different things to the staff. Robinson’s coaching career began in 1986, while Guth began manning the sidelines two years ago. Both were brought in because they are strong recruiters, and Robinson will provide a veteran presence to the staff while Guth’s energy stuck out to Stein.
That energy was on display during the team’s 0pen house at Mizzou Arena on Tuesday. She split her time helping to manage practice and introducing herself to fans, always keeping them engaged by maintaining eye contact and a welcoming smile on her face.
Robinson wasn’t there that day; she was out on the recruiting trail. She has been a recruiting coordinator since 1987 while at Missouri State and Michigan. During her 15 years at MSU she developed relationships with high school coaches across the state through recruiting trips and a summer basketball camp staffed in part by high school coaches. She maintained those connections while in Michigan and will be able to put them to good use at Mizzou.
“Some of those (coming to the camps at MSU) were some of the best coaches in the state of Missouri,” Robinson said. “I certainly maintained those relationships even though I was in a different state for a while. Being able to get back in touch with those people makes a big difference. A university like us needs to own our state in recruiting.”
The Tigers did a good job of keeping the state’s top talent last season, landing 2007 Miss Show-Me Basketball, Shakara Jones. Jones is one of five new players who will have to adjust to their new teammates, much like the coaches are adjusting to each other. Establishing coaching chemistry is an important process, but one that usually is smoother than it is for players.
“It’s usually pretty easy because you look for people that have pretty good personalities and can relate to people,” Stein said. “That’s why they’re good at what they do.”
It went well for Robinson, who said getting a feel for her colleagues was hard at first — even with Stein whom she knew personally, but not professionally. But things quickly fell in place once they began to get acquainted and work together.
“It’s a learning process,” Robinson said. “You have to be open to other people’s ideas and open to communication. I think it’s a great thing to go through that because it does make you grow personally and professionally.”
All four coaches said they felt good about the chemistry of the staff even though the regular season is not yet under way. The staff is working together well, and Guth said that’s something that can only benefit the players.
“When you have a staff that gels together, I think it’s something that trickles down to the team,” Guth said. “They feel the vibe a little bit to get that team chemistry.”