A legend’s immeasurable impact

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 1, 2015


Legendary Andalusia basketball coach Richard Robertson announced his retirement after 50 years of working in the Andalusia City School system on Thursday, and his impact on his players goes far beyond the game of basketball.


For the first time in nearly half a century, Andalusia will be without Robertson commanding his troops from the sidelines.


Coach Rob, as he is affectionately known to everyone around Andalusia, has dedicated his life to the not only teaching players how to succeed on the court, but also how to succeed in life after basketball.


“When I moved here, it took awhile to get use to the way he coached,” former player Jermaine Shakespeare said. “Reflecting back though, he was one of the most instrumental people in getting me better at basketball, and as a man in general. I see the big picture now. When you are 17 years old, you just don’t get it, but now I find myself using the things he told me with the kids that I work with. He was more than just a coach, and to a lot of guys he was their father figure and the only constant male figure in their lives. He has filled gaps in a lot of young men’s lives. With out him and my own father, I’m not sure where I would have ended up or what I would have been doing. When I went to Alabama A&M, to play basketball we had a very tough coach, and had it not been for my year with Coach Robertson, I wouldn’t have been able to make it, and I’m very thankful to him for that. But he is so much bigger than just basketball, he taught us how to present ourselves to the world as men. He would talk to us for hours, but everything he said had a purpose and meaning behind it. He is so much more than just a basketball coach. He used basketball as a way to reach kids. We used to hate having to dress up in suit and ties. We would complain that the other teams are showing up in their jumpsuits. Now, I wear a tie every day to work. Without realizing it, he had prepared me for the real world.”


Throughout the years, Robertson has not only served as a role model for his players and children in the community, he also served as a father figure to many he coached.


“Coach was like a second father to us away from home,” former player Derrick King said. “Coach cared more about how you carried yourself in life than what you did on the court. He wanted you be a successful person in life first before anything, and that’s why I believe he was so hard on us. It was because he never wanted us to fall in the cracks of life, as he would say all the time, and it was an honor to play for him. Just to be in his presence was special because the man has seen it all, and he will always have a story that would touch you in some kind of way, and for us as players, especially myself, while we were young I never got why he was so hard on me. I never understood why this man would talk about life instead of drawing up a play for the game, or why would he be talking about anything else other than basketball. Now, I clearly see everything he told me. I’ve seen most of it already in life, and I’m 22 now, and I catch myself telling my former teammates that coach always said this or that after situations I run into in life. When I went to college, on my first day of practice the way I acted and the way I played the game, they knew I was from Andalusia. I even had some of them saying ‘I wish I could’ve played for him,’ and I would tell them that I didn’t think they were ready for Coach Robertson. He was one of a kind, and should go down as one of the best coaches in high school.”


His former players were quick to point out that his impact goes well beyond the court.


“Coach was a life changer,” former player Brian Weeden said. “He taught me so much more than I ever realized. Everything I was taught, I have implemented in my basketball program and in my life. It was never basketball and X’s and O’s, it was always about life and becoming a better person. He has saved so many of my friends.”


Like Weeden, several of his former players have gone on to become basketball coaches themselves, and credit Robertson for his guidance.


“I was fortunate enough to grow up watching him coach at Andalusia and then I got to spend four years playing for him,” said former player and current Red Level basketball coach Allen Catrett. “I was then able to coach under him for a little while, and then also coach against him. I had lots of years and opportunities to learn from him. I can remember every day before practice he would sit us down on the bleachers and just talk to us for about an hour, and it was never about basketball, it was about life. At the time, I don’t think we fully understood what he was telling us, but as I’ve gotten older, I understand more and more about what he telling us. He taught us much more than just the game of basketball, he taught us about growing up and about life. The thing about Coach Robertson was that he tried to help out every one who came in there. He has helped a lot of people that have come through Andalusia. He was always tough on us, but we knew that he always had our best interest at heart. He taught every one a lot, and if you listened to him, you learned something from him.”


His impact on his players is truly immeasurable, and the life lessons he taught are ones that those players still cling to.


“He taught me about life through the game of basketball,” former player Renaldo Dorsey said. “I remember he would talk to us for about an hour before he would even let us touch a ball. He taught me valuable life lessons and discipline at a very young age. He will be missed.”


His former players said that although his lessons on basketball were important, it was his lessons on growing up and life in general that have stuck with them.


“The man, the coach, the legend,” former player Chris Cotton said. “Coach Robertson not only coached, he taught me so many life lessons. My four years under him are something I will never forget. He always told myself and teammates to do the right thing, not only in sports, but most importantly in life. He was always there for my teammates and myself, which was a big impact in my life. I want to thank him for all that he has done for our schools and community.”


As far as the way he coached, his former players say he was a mastermind at the game.


“The guy was a mastermind,” King said. “People criticize his style of play a lot of times, but if you do what the man tells you then every game you will be in position to win the game. I promise, it’s crazy, everyone in the world knows what he is going to do, but they still can’t stop it. Coach stresses fundamentals all the time, and I came through while fundamentals wasn’t our thing. I was a flashy dribbling point guard and coach knew it, but he wasn’t going to have it if it wasn’t his way. So when I added in the fundamentals that he stressed, it made me a much better player.”