By Jeff Brown
After a more than disappointing season a year ago, the Youngstown State University basketball team saw major changes before the start of the season. Perhaps the most important change came from the addition of two new assistant coaches Kevin Bruinsma and Stew Robinson.
The coaching positions opened after Brian DePaoli left the coaching staff due to personal reasons. Fellow assistant coach Steve Hall became the head coach and administrator of a high school basketball team in Detroit.
Bruinsma is in his third year with the YSU program, but has spent the last two years as the director of basketball operations. Bruinsma will be responsible this year for scouting opponents, on court coaching and overseeing the academic progress of student athletes.
“I worked the clock with the OPS guy, so I was on the floor and I would pay attention. Coach [Jerry Slocum] would always stop by at times and say, ‘When you get your chance to be on the floor, this is what I would do here.’ He hasn’t been giving me advice just now, but he’s been giving me advice since I got here,” Bruinsma said.
While Bruinsma may be inexperienced on paper when it comes to coaching, he still thinks he can make a positive impact on this team.
“I’m the youngest guy on staff. I’m a really, really high-energy person. I’m pretty vocal on the floor,” Bruinsma said. “I’m very comfortable and confident in the things I do. I’ll bring a relentless enthusiasm. I love the atmosphere, I love to cheer and I love to coach. I love to teach the guys and see them have success.”
While Bruinsma is fairly new to coaching, the hire of Stew Robinson brings in a coach with 14 years of experience at the collegiate level, including the last four years at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Horizon League conference foe. Over those four years, Robinson became familiar with the Horizon League, something that could become beneficial when the team enters conference play.
“I know all the teams in the league. We got some minimal chances at Green Bay [University] for instance. We got a new member in Northern Kentucky [University]. I’m really familiar with all the teams,” Robinson said.
After going only 2-14 in Horizon League play a year ago, Robinson said that his knowledge of the Horizon League can help the Penguins become a contender for the conference championship, and maybe even make the NCAA tournament.
“I’m coming here with the mindset of winning a Horizon League championship — plain and simple. Winning the Horizon League championship puts us in a better position for a better spot in the tournament, and a potential bid for the NCAA Tournament,” Robinson said. “I’ve been to the NCAA tournament as a player and I’ve been there as a coach.
“My main focus is to get the players to that tournament so they could feel that exhilaration. I want the university to get to the tournament to feel that exhilaration of playing in the NCAA tournament because it’s a deserving university.”
Previous to coaching at UIC, Robinson spent eight years [2003-2011] as an assistant coach for Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Knight and his son Pat Knight. Robinson was also a three-year starter for Bob Knight at the University of Indiana, where he helped the team to a Big Ten Conference title during the 1982-83 season. Robinson is looking to pass on that knowledge to this YSU team.
“You always do things the right way. You never try to cheat, or try to shortcut your way into winning and embarrass the university that you are at, your coach or your family,” Robinson said. “That’s one of the biggest things I want to do here in Youngstown. We want to put out a good product, but we want to make sure we do it in the right way. This is an outstanding university and we don’t want to embarrass it in any way.”
YSU’s men’s basketball will open its 2015 season at Kent State University on Nov. 14.