Vance High basketball coach Will Robinson used to want to be a professional basketball player.
He was a junior at Mansfield (Pa.) University when the NBA’s Buffalo Braves came to campus for an exhibition. All-Star Bob McAdoo was on the team, but Robinson was more excited to see Braves point guard Randy Smith, who played his position.
Then he watched his idol play.
“I saw Randy Smith,” Robinson said, “and I think the realization set in (that being a pro wasn’t in my future). It made me realize how far I had to go to be a pro basketball player and that maybe I needed to concentrate on my academics and being the best college player I could be.”
Robinson’s goal changed from playing basketball to coaching it, and he’s become quite a coach.
Robinson, 58, won his 500th game Friday at home against Independence. He said it takes dedication from many to reach 500 wins.
Only a handful of coaches with Mecklenburg County roots have recorded that many. Examples include former Charlotte Latin boys’ coach Jerry Faulkner, former West Charlotte coaches Gosnell White and Charles McCullough and former Providence Day and South Mecklenburg coach Dave Price.
Those are among the best coaches in any sport to ever work in Mecklenburg County, so Robinson is in some elite company.
“It takes good players, great (assistant) coaches and supportive parents and administrations,” Robinson said of the climb to 500. “All of those are factors. I’ve been blessed.”
Robinson is 500-119 in his career, including a 150-47 record at Vance, which he led to the N.C. 4A championship game in 2007.
Vance (4-0) plays Butler at home Tuesday.
Robinson said as the clock ticked down during Friday’s big win, he was very excited.
“It was surreal,” he said. “I hadn’t paid much attention to wins and losses over the years. About the only time I’m forced to think about it is when I fill out one of these forms that’s sent to me and before I (fill them out), I have to call someone or look back through the archives and the wins and try to put it together.”
All week, Robinson said people in the Vance community talked to him about the possibility of winning 500.
“It makes you stop and think, not necessarily about the wins, but all the people involved in your life and all the parents of those people who helped make all that possible, especially my family, my wife (Cheryl) in particular. It’s like I told the crowd (Friday) night: I neglected my family to pursue my dream to be a coach. Even though I was doing that, they loved me anyhow, and I finally got my priorities together and did things the way I should.
“So when I look back, there are so many people that I owe a big debt of gratitude and thanks.”