Robertson Ready For His Next Challenge at Cal


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By Jim McGill, Staff Writer
Posted Jul 11, 2017
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2017

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Cal assistant coach Theo Robertson
When Cal head coach Wyking Jones announced the hiring of former Golden Bear Theo Robertson not long after his arrival, it was a true homecoming story, with the Pittsburg native and former De La Salle star returning to his Bay Area roots to help rebuild the program he loves.
His time at Cal was special for Robertson and a key reason why returning to the Bears could even happen after climbing the ladder in the NBA.

Did any memories stand out to the 30-year old Robertson from his time as a player at Cal?

"Yeah, absolutely," said Robertson. "I think winning the Pac-10 was big-time. To win that outright and the year we had was awesome.

"It was special because it was a group of seniors that kind of led the charge. To watch how our journey progressed over the years was pretty cool. The maturation of Jerome (Randle) -he got so much better in a lot of ways. I think J was telling me the other day, we basically had four 1,000 point scorers on that team, which was unheard of, especially in this day and age with guys leaving early.

"When you're able to grow together and go through adversity together and have your career here with moments like that is special.

"I'm proud of a lot of the things we did here while I played here. Going to three NCAA tournaments, walking with Jordan Wilkes, who I roomed with at Cal. Being able to play right away and get an opportunity with Coach Braun and his staff. Playing with Leon Powe and big-time players

"That year in particular was memorable. We had a game with UCLA we ended up losing, unfortunately, but it was for the Pac-10 title. I had a big three that sent it into overtime. So part of why I had the confidence to play at this level was moments like that, that validated what I could do."

After graduating from Cal, Robertson never strayed far, serving in an administrative capacity in the Pac-12 offices in San Francisco after his career at Cal, where he starred as a wing from 2006-2010, finishing as Cal's all-time leading 3-point shooter at 44% and among the top 25 in scoring with 1,315 career points.

After his one year stint with the league offices, Robertson returned to Cal, first serving as a graduate manager under Mike Montgomery before expanding his role to director of basketball operations in 2013-14, handling travel arrangements, recruiting databases and coordinator academic support.

Robertson then moved on to join the Golden State Warriors staff under Steve Kerr in 2014, first serving as a video assistant, splicing game film while watching over 200 games and providing pre-draft video prep.

The move to the NBA, working closely with some of the top players in the world was an eye-opener for Robertson and he relished every opportunity he had to work closely with the players and being on the court.

"My first year with the Warriors, Steve (Kerr) was talking to me about letting me be on the floor with the players," said Robertson. "So the first week I was there, we had Shaun Livingston in the gym, rehabbing from a foot injury.

"So we were out there working out and Steve came out and acknowledged us and was looking at the work we were doing.

"To me, just him giving me that vote of confidence that he liked what we were doing was big-time. First time in the NBA. First time working for Steve. And Shaun was probably the premier offseason signing we had. To have that trust in me to get out there and do some work with him, that was awesome.

"I was able to build a really good relationship with Shawn and the rest of the guys moving forward. So that kind of paved the way for what I was doing my second year, which was a lot more player development on the floor.

"I supervised the video room, so I wasn't necessarily in there cutting the tape anymore but I'd work closely together with coaches putting together scouts and things of that nature. But a lot of my role was being on the floor, being at practices and doing the player development with the young guys, along with gameday preparation."

After lead assistant Luke Walton left the Warriors to coach the Los Angeles Lakers, Walton brought along Robertson as an assistant coach in 2016-17 before the former Golden Bear got the call to join new head coach Wyking Jones as an assistant at his alma mater.

"The only real difference I had working with Luke and the Lakers was the title of assistant coach and being able to get in front of the team more and have my own scouts," said Robertson. "We were completely responsible for coming up with and the implementation of a game plan, too, so that was really good."

"Not having the opportunity to play professional basketball, working and coaching in the NBA was a cool thing to be able to do, just to be able to be out there with those guys, even if it wasn't in the context of a game. Just to have that camaraderie, to play 1-on-1 and help them get better. So I went through a period where I had to decompress from basketball and kind of purge all the emotions from having everything in the game taken away from me and letting it run it's course. To be able to get out there with those guys and play with them was phenomenal."

Now with his return to Berkeley, his career has come full circle with the Bears.

"Just being around with the Warriors and being in close proximity helped keep me connected," said Robertson. "But being here in this capacity, I'm excited about it and continuing to get my bearings and get settled.

"In a lot of ways, the role I have now at Cal as opposed to my prior role, I think I'll be able to have a lot greater impact than being a Director of Ops or a basketball manager. I'll try to bring the same thing as far as being a mentor to our guys and bringing the perspective of a student athlete. There are some new people in the building and the landscaping has changed slightly. But it's pretty familiar for me making a return here so I'm pretty comfortable here."

Robertson finds himself in the unique position of being able to sell his program as a recruiter from the perspective as a recent student athlete at Cal, knowing up close and personal all the program has to sell.

"That first hand experience, you can speak to the climate, environment and experience at Cal first-hand having been a player here myself," said Robertson. "I don't think there are a lot of people in my position that are former student athletes at the school they coach for. I understand what it's like to play here at Haas and be a student at Cal.

"I always try and speak to the heart when talking to recruits and their families. I want to be able to come across to players and their families that what I'm saying about Cal is coming from the heart. Hopefully that connection will really resonate with them and give them comfort that, 'Hey, what this guy's talking about is true, it's legitimate, it's authentic. I have someone here who can guide me and support me in a way that not many people can.'

"I think that's one thing I can really bring to the table, having that type of experience. To be able to have the familiarity not just with the university but with the area, in general. All the resources in San Francisco, our alumni base, having worked at the Pac-12 offices and giving guys exposure to those types of things. I want to give that all to them, being as open as I can be about that experience that we're trying to sell and that they're looking at possibly engaging in."

Another selling point for Robertson is his employment and first-hand exposure to the NBA -particularly being a part of one of the greatest teams of all time in his time with the Warriors and working with a storied franchise like the Lakers - a favorite of many of Cal's SoCal recruiting base.

"It's significant," said Robertson. "I think people feel that. And not just the NBA itself but the teams that I was with -the Warriors and the Lakers- two premier sports franchises, not just in basketball but amongst all franchises, like the Yankees and other top tier organizations. And with the Warriors and the high level of success they've had in recent years, it's a big deal.

"Recruits and their families are really inquisitive about the experience. We talk a lot about what steps we're taking to prepare them for success at that level, both on and off the floor. Being able to speak with first-hand experience about things that you're going to need to be able to do. The fact that I was so closely removed from the NBA probably makes their ears perk up a little bit more and I think everyone's extremely receptive. Not just players but their families. They want to know about that experience and that's something I'm certainly glad to share.

"With me being back at Cal, I think it speaks highly about how special a place I think this is. So much so that I don't look at Cal as a step down from the NBA. I look at it as an opportunity to grow and get better at a place I love.

"One of the reasons I was excited to come back to Cal was to be able to work with the staff that Coach Wyking's put together, I can learn from guys like Chris (Walker) and TO (Tim O'Toole) and lean on them. They've been around the block a time or two.

"There's a sense of urgency right now for us to get things going and to win as soon as possible. Being able to utilize their recruiting networks was another reason I wanted to come. I'm more of a West Coast region guy and I know a lot of people out here. Wyking, T.O., Chris -they have more national connections. So for me to come in here, understanding the situation, my network is already extending."

For now, Robertson and staff are faced with rebuilding a team that returns an astoundingly minimal number of returnees with four -senior center Kingsley Okoroh, senior forward Marcus Lee, sophomore forward Roman Davis and junior guard Don Coleman.

The Bears added forwards Grant Anticevich and Justice Sueing along with guards Juhwan Harris-Dyson, Deschon Winston, Austin McCullough and Darius McNeill, who asked out of his letter of intent with Iowa State to be reunited with his former coach, Chris Walker.

The near total turnover of the roster and the high level of youth and inexperience will undoubtedly pose challenges for the Bears this season. 

We're trying to build and create something that's sustainable," said Robertson. "We want to have a high level of excitement, make a splash and hit home runs, but at the same time, we want to make sure we build the program up the right way, for the long haul."

With McNeill's late addition along with commitments from 4 star Top 100 commits Jacobi Gordon and Matt Bradley, the program's gaining critical momentum on the recruiting front -an absolute necessity if the Bears are to make waves in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournament in coming years.

"I think everyone's pretty excited about it," said Robertson. "It creates a little bit of momentum for us, which was much needed.

"Any time you get a new staff in here, there can be a lot of uncertainty about the situation. You have to be able to get some guys that are highly-regarded, 4 star guys that can really help a program. It gives us a nice kick start for what we can do from here on.

"We're very exited about who we have coming in on their own right but also other prospects that will see who's bought in and will be attracted to that, as well. Seeing players and people they'll want to play with. We think as we integrate the new guys, players around the country will see and like how we do things and want to be a part of it."

As for the current team, the challenge of integrating so many new players has just begun as the freshmen reported for summer bridge a little over two weeks ago and have started summer conditioning and practice.

"I'm feeling a lot better about things now that we've been able to get on the court and get in some practices, even though we're operating under the two hour a week rule," said Robertson. "But it's great to see our freshman and how they're working with the upperclassmen and learning.

"It's been fun being able to be hands-on and get some work done on the court."

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