It’s not often a coach gets to go back to his alma mater as head coach, but for Grant Robbins, it was a reality.
Robbins said he wasn’t thinking about leaving Memphis, and it would have taken a special place to draw him away.
That place was Kansas State.
K-State athletic director John Currie formally introduced his new men’s golf coach on Thursday in the club level of the West Stadium Center, bringing in the replacement for longtime head coach Tim Norris, who is retiring after 17 years on the job.
“Kansas State’s a very special place,” Robbins said. “It didn’t take long after sitting down with John Currie to see the direction of the entire athletic department. There’s a championship culture here and that starts at the top.”
Robbins comes from Memphis after spending 11 seasons as coach at his alma mater. He took the Tigers to six NCAA regional appearances and is a two-time Conference USA Coach of the Year. Prior to that, he guided an upstart program at UNC Wilmington to the NCAA regional, earning distinction as the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year.
“Basically what we’ve got here is we’ve got a coach that is committed academically, we’ve got a three-time coach of the year, a guy that’s been very impressive,” Currie said. “A proven team-builder, and all the right things all the way across.”
The search for Norris’ replacement has been the longest coaching search during Currie’s tenure as athletic director.
Norris first told Currie and senior associate athletic director Casey Scott of his desire to retire at the end of the 2012-13 season. By August, he officially announced his retirement and Currie began looking for a replacement.
Currie credited Norris for a selfless decision to step down early enough to give the school time to go through a thorough process to find the next men’s golf coach.
Norris said he told Currie the program has the pieces in place with the growth of the athletic department and the school, and the home course and facilities to make a good hire.
“We wanted to get the right guy,” he said. “And I think we did.”
Robbins said he was honored to be the guy following up Norris as coach.
“He is truly a legend in our profession,” Robbins said. “He has made this an attractive job. I’m very fortunate to follow in his footsteps. I’ve got some huge shoes to fill.”
Robbins was previously connected to K-State through his wife, Brooke, who is a K-State alum. Because of those family ties, he said he visited Manhattan in the past and knew about Colbert Hills, although he’d never played there.
He said shortly after he sat down with Currie and began the process of considering the position, the decision to leave his alma mater became easier than he ever thought it would be.
“As a coach you want to compete at the highest level,” he said. “The Big 12 you’ve got Oklahoma State, you’ve got Oklahoma and Texas, it’s such a tremendous golf conference. The resources are here to compete at the highest level.”
Those resources begin with Colbert Hills. Robbins said having a championship-caliber course so close to campus is a huge advantage. With additional facilities for K-State at the course, he said the environment is good for player development.
“I can really see us being able to recruit top-notch players here,” he said. “We’re going to get the best player in Kansas and we’re going to go into Missouri and Oklahoma and Texas and that’s going to be our footprint. There’s so much talent in that region that’s going to be our primary focus. Golf has become such a global game that I’m sure we’re going to look international as well.”
Robbins said he will look to recruit players that are a fit for K-State. He said he looks for players with a passion for the game, that have good intangibles, and he also likes to find and develop big, athletic players. Robbins also like the pieces he has in place for next season, too.
Robbins’ deal with K-State is for five years and begins June 12. His salary for the first year will be $105,000, and it will increase $2,500 each season over the lifetime of his contract. He will receive a signing bonus of $10,000.