A proud University of Rhode Island basketball alum who broadened his post-Kingston horizons by stamping his passport all over the world, now calls the gym of the all-girls Catholic school in East Providence his winter home.
For Dawan Robinson, staying involved in the game represented the easiest box to check off upon retiring from life as a pro in 2017. He built a training business called Life of Hoops from the ground floor up. Now the venture features AAU programs (boys and girls) and training concepts with wisdom and instruction imparted upon the next generation of hopefuls.
The more Robinson sank his teeth into his post-playing venture, the more he heard a voice cry out in the hoops wilderness – one that broadened his horizons concerning coaching at the high school level.
“I wanted to be specific on the things we were working on in our training sessions, but I wasn’t able to see them play because I was training so much,” said Robinson, now 40 and still fit and trim – giving off the aura that he can jump into the fray and not skip a beat.
“The girls actually listen way better than the boys,” he delved further. “It’s easier to work with them. There are no egos.”
The idea of continuing to teach along with molding and developing a specific group over a specific season … it’s what drew Robinson to St. Mary Academy – Bay View where he enters his second season as the program’s head coach.
“I knew there was a decent, solid squad,” said Robinson, speaking one night earlier this week after the Bengals concluded practice. “Everyone kept telling me they needed discipline. They wanted to change the culture. I’m all about that.”
The first Bay View squad under Robinson’s watch made steady gains as the 2021-22 season progressed. By the time the Division I playoffs rolled around, the Bengals held the reputation as a team that no one wanted to face. Seeded seventh, Bay View upended two higher seeds – No. 2 Ponaganset and No. 6 Cranston West – en route to reaching the Division I finals. The Cinderella magic may have dried up against top seed North Kingstown, yet the deep playoff run offers concrete evidence that Robinson’s methods had resonated with the Bengals.
“There were some ups and downs. We started [the season] off slow, but we picked it up,” said Robinson. “The girls saw what (we) had been working on come to light. Once we got heavy into the film sessions, we started to excel after breaking things down – understanding how I wanted the offense and defense to be run.”
The story seems almost straight out of adolescent fiction – Dawan Robinson, former URI star guard, and basketball world traveler who made stops in Italy, France, Germany, Slovenia, and Israel, now coaching high school girls basketball.
“It is amazing. I never thought I would be a coach,” said Robinson, “but here I am. I’m just blessed to be in this situation.”
Originally from Philadelphia, Robinson developed a fondness for the Ocean State that stretched well behind suiting up for the Rams. He met his wife Jennifer his first week on the URI campus; they have been together ever since. When Robinson called it a career, it felt natural to entrench himself in the state where he played his college ball.
“I knew Rhode Island was going to be my home,” he said.
Through coaching the girls in AAU hoops through his Life of Hoops program, Robinson was primed and ready to take on the head position at Bay View.
“I realized that I had to prepare myself better to prepare the kids to play the right way,” said Robinson. “I knew I had to get better as a coach to help guide them through a long season.”
Spring and summer months on the AAU circuit are hectic; Robinson can be in Kentucky one weekend or Texas the following weekend. Coaching high school basketball represents his downtime – devoting all his energy to a specific group without the travel hassle.
“Lock in,” as Robinson put it.
There can’t be shortcuts for coaches, even for those who were accomplished players.
“The [current] players know you’ve played at that level, but I will say this, everything can fly right out the window if your stuff isn’t in order,” said Robinson. “The ducks still have to line up, no matter what your résumé says.”
As he gears up for his second season on the Bay View sideline, Robinson admits that when it comes to coaching, he’s far from a finished product.
“I’m loving it, but it’s still a learning process,” he said.
Brendan McGair is a sportswriter and columnist with the Pawtucket Times and the Woonsocket Call. A graduate of Providence College, McGair is a five-time recipient of the R.I. Sports Writer of the Year Award as voted by the National Sports Media Association (NSMA).
Follow McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03 and on Instagram @bwmcgair.