Leslie "Les" G. Robinson
1997 Honorary Alumni
Les Robinson has been coaching basketball all of his life, building a heritage of successful basketball teams at each of the institutions where he has either played or coached. ETSU was one of those schools. Over the course of 36 years, Robinson has come full circle from captain and leading scorer of the North Carolina State University freshman basketball team in 1961 to head coach of the men's basketball team at N.C. State in 1990 and now serves as Director of Athletics. It is a rare opportunity for any college athlete to return home to his alma mater.
His first collegiate head coaching job was at The Citadel where he invested sixteen years of his time and talent. He was an assistant coach for five years before becoming head coach in 1975. As head coach, for eleven seasons he directed the team to a winning record, earning 132 victories. Robinson was recognized during his tenure at The Citadel as the 1979 Southern Conference Coach of the Year and twice as the South Carolina Coach of the Year (1979 & 1985) as awarded by the South Carolina Sportswriters Association. He left The Citadel as the winningest coach ever and the fifth winningest coach in Southern Conference history. He remains the only Citadel coach to ever win 20 games in a season.
Robinson came to ETSU in 1985 to stand at the "other" bench in a place he had been many times before. As the men's head Basketball Coach he found a battered program. Starting from the court and moving up, Robinson brought in a veteran staff with Southern Conference experience and invested in freshmen with promise. The rest of the evolution has become legend in East Tennessee. Robinson rekindled the images of a Buccaneer program that experienced success under Madison Brooks but with a difference . . . this team was fashioned for a national profile and an exciting style. For the second time, he was named 1990 Southern Conference Coach of the Year after coaching the Buccaneers to a school record for wins in a season. The Bucs won the 1989 and the 1990 Southern Conference championships, playing in the NCAA Tournament both years. Robinson, who fashioned an 81-70 record, earned Southern Conference, NCAA District accolades and 1990 Tennessee Coach of the Year as selected by USA Today, an honor that is presented to the state's top coach at any level in any sport. In 1989, Les served as an assistant coach for the U.S. World Cup qualifying team in Mexico City, Mexico. He also coached the South team to a Bronze medal in the 1993 Olympic Festival in San Antonio, Texas.
As Buccaneer athletic director, Robinson was instrumental in establishing a solid financial base for ETSU athletics. During his tenure, the Pirate Club increased its membership to an all-time high, fund-raising reached record levels, and basketball attendance increased by 175 percent. Robinson also served as a member of the Southern Conference Basketball Committee for nine years, and in 1980 served as the league's representative to the NCAA Special Legislative Session on Recruiting.
It was in 1990 that Robinson returned to his alma mater to lead the Wolfpack Men's basketball team at North Carolina State University. For six years he continued to distinguish himself among the all-time best basketball coaches in the nation. He was the 1991 District Coach of the Year as selected by the National Basketball Coaches Association (NABC) after leading NC State to a 20-11 record in the first season. Among his other honors and distinctions, he was the only first-year coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference history to win 20 games, post a winning regular season conference record, and win games in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. These awards explain why Les was selected Coach of the Year at each of the schools where he directed the programs and also recorded 20+ win seasons at each coaching venue. At each stop, hard work and winning have been trade marks of Robinson's influence.
Today, he has taken a different role at NC State. As he has done at ETSU, Les is now Director of Athletics. As AD he is responsible for one of the nation's largest athletics programs with 21 sports, approximately 536 athletes, and an annual budget of $17.8 million. With Les' guidance, the Wolfpack has already set records in season ticket sales for basketball. Not only has Les improved the academic performance of the Men's basketball program by increasing average team GPA's and dramatically increasing graduation rates, but he serves as an influential spokesperson for the mission of the athletic department. Robinson currently serves on the board of the Raleigh Cystic Fibrosis organization and the Thompson Children's Home. He is active as a volunteer with the Make A Wish Foundation, the Duke Children's Classic, the Children's Network Telethon, and has participated in numerous charity clinics, including an annual event in conjunction with the Raleigh City Police Department for underprivileged children.
Les graduated in 1965 with a bachelor of science degree in parks and recreation and physical education from NC State University. He then became an assistant coach at NC State for one year. From there, he was the head basketball coach and athletic director at Cedar Key High School in Florida for two years. In 1968 he returned to graduate school, serving as an assistant coach at Western Carolina where he also received a master's degree in physical education and guidance counseling.
Les is a native of Charleston, West Virginia, and a graduate of St. Albans High School. He is married to the former Barbara Simon of St. Albans, West Virginia, and they have four children: Greg, Robby, Kelly, and Barbara, and three grandchildren: L.G., Savannah, and Lily.