From the Bench: Unique Start, Best and Worst Times and Tons of Memories from Coach Robey's Career

By Jeff Toquinto on June 16, 2019 from Sports Blog via

Mike Robey’s coaching career officially ended this month after 35 years at Bridgeport High School. The roots of that career started in the oddest of places.
The beginning can be traced to the back porch of a house in the Stealey section of Clarksburg. And it actually begins with football and not basketball.
Still relatively fresh out of college, Robey was learning for a head coaching job and a permanent teaching position. He learned about an opening for a head football coach at the now closed Central Junior High and decided to do something before officially applying for the job.
In the pre-internet days, Mike Robey scoured the phone book looking for the address of the principal. In coaching, I always taught my kids to be proactive and, well, this was pretty proactive,” said Robey. “I looked up the address of (Central Principal Principal) Richard Drummond, went to his house and decided to make a pitch.”
And what happened?
“He was sitting on his chair on his back porch and I told him who I was and hoped he didn’t mind if I talked to him about the coaching job,” said Robey. “I told him if he hired me he wouldn’t regret it and I’d do right by him and the kids. When it all came out, he hired me and, to this day it was one of the best moves ever and not just because of the job.
“Dick Drummond was a great man and a great man for a young teacher to be around on every front,” Robey continued. “I learned more from Dick Drummond than any single person I met in my entire life.”
And the journey was off. Three and a half decades later the journey, as it stands, now is complete on the coaching front.
In between then and now has been a whole lot of really good memories and one really bad one. Robey coached football for two years, and during that second season he began coaching basketball as the head man as well at CJHS. He also was assisting Roosevelt-Wilson High School baseball Coach Del Gainer.
“To be honest, at that time, I wanted to coach everything. I was fine coaching year-round and coach everything that I could. I enjoyed it that much,” said Robey. “Eventually, I settled on basketball, which was the sport I loved.”
Robey played football at R-W before breaking his arm and then after missing a year played basketball and baseball. His love for all sports continued as he learned hoops lessons from his Roosevelt-Wilson Coach Tim Brinkley and then the legendary Fairmont State Coach Joe “JoJo” Retton.
The love for sports was set in stone. The coaching career, it appeared, was chiseled out by Brinkley and Retton.
In 1984 he began coaching at Central Junior High School. During his long run at the school, Mike Robey’s name became synonymous with winning. Playing in the gymnasium that may have had a 15-foot ceiling, Robey’s teams were often unbeatable.
“Unbeatable” isn’t actually hyperbole. For a 97-game span that covered five years, Central never lost a game. The setback that ended the run came courtesy of Philip Barbour and required the services of future West Virginia University player Josh Yeager.
The winning streak wasn’t the only thing that would end. The school itself would close and Robey would take his coaching talent to a familiar place to coach junior high kids including freshman at R-W. Eventually, the move went to Washington Irving when Roosevelt-Wilson closed and headed to the downtown Clarksburg area.
Eventually, he would have the first of two stints with Gene Randolph as an assistant varsity coach, take on a job as a varsity coach for a couple of years at a private school and then Robey said he got the opportunity to “join his best friend” Billy Bennett as an assistant at Robert C. Byrd.
“I was happy with Billy and loved my time at the school because Billy was so easy to work with and he let his assistant do a lot of coaching,” said Robey. “I was happy there, but at the end of one season something happened that when Gene (Randolph) called me about coming back to coach as an assistant and letting me know he’d be stepping down in a few years I made the move back to Bridgeport.”
What happened, which was documented in this very blog several years ago, was what Robey called the single worst moment in his coaching career. In fact, he called it among his worst moments regardless of the situation.
“I was still coaching with Billy at RCB and we’re game planning like crazy to beat Bridgeport to get a chance to try and get to Charleston. We ended up beating them and I was so happy and then we’re walking through the line to shake hands,” said Robey. “There it was in front of me. My son Christopher, who’s playing for Bridgeport, is going through the line and he’s got tears pouring down his cheeks.
“I went from pure joy to pure misery in one second and in that same second I decided I’ll never do it again,” he continued. “I had Chase coming up and knew Chase would be a really good player and I wasn’t going to be in that situation again and was fortunate Gene had the opening. Billy, as I expected, 100 percent understood and that’s how I ended up back at Bridgeport.”
After serving as an assistant, Randolph stepped down as he said was coming. Robey earned the administration’s trust and was the recommended – and approved – hire for the position. For the last seven years, he’s led the Indians.
In five of his years, the Tribe made it to the state tournament. In all of those years and every year prior to coming back to BHS, he said, he had a great time of it.
“The last 35 years have been awesome. I was blessed with so many good kids and I had very few issues on the parental things. In fact, most of the parents of the kids I’ve coached are great and some are lifelong friends,” said Robey. “Add to that so many kids that are like family and it’s all just been one big blessing.”
Robey said there are so many kids that stand out. He mentioned Chris Williams from his Central days. He talked about Jake Lockett, Michael Moore and Casey O’Brien from his RCB days. And he said so many kids like his son Chase, Donald Kummer, Dante Bonamico and John Wilfong from his time at Bridgeport were among the hundreds he’ll never forget.
“When you get to know those kids, there’s really not been a whole lot, honestly, that’s been negative,” said Robey.
As for big games, Robey said there were tons of them. He said any regional win to get to Charleston was big and an EQT holiday tournament where the Indians went unbeaten and handed a top-ranked Morgantown team one of their only losses of the season stands out because his squad scrapped through an entire year.
“Any game where your kids battled and came through, even sometimes when they came up short, you had that sense of accomplishment because of the effort. Those are good stories and there are a ton of them,” Robey said. “The better stories are hearing from my past players who have good jobs, are good fathers and husbands. That’s what makes it special and you just hope you played a small part in that.”
Robey did. When news broke last week of his retirement, he anticipated hearing from a few people. More than a week later, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing and the texts haven’t stopped buzzing.
“They’re still coming,” Robey said. “… I’m overwhelmed by it and there aren’t enough words describe how overwhelming it’s been. I’m thankful for it all and thankful to know that some of those kids, in some way, thought I did a pretty decent job and had a positive affect on them. It’s humbling for sure.”
And now it’s over. Well, it’s likely over. Perhaps you shouldn’t read anything more into it than what’s said because Robey insisted that there’s nothing lined up. However, he won’t rule out a return.
“There’s always a chance I’ll get back into it and I don’t want to completely close the door on anything. Right now, I felt I couldn’t give the one thing to coaching that I demanded of my kids and that’s 100 percent effort,” said Robey. “When I wavered and felt that I knew it was time, but I’ve already been talking to coaches to see how things are going in this three-week period.
“Coaching is in my blood, so I’ll never say never,” he continued. “All I know, for sure, is that for now I’m finished coaching and if it’s the last time I think I’ll be okay with it.”
Editor’s Note: Check back to Connect-Bridgeport to hear Principal Matt DeMotto talk about the process to fill Robey’s position and also what he had to say about Robey’s departure. As for the photos, the top photo shows Mike Robey coaching in his last game at BHS, while the second photo is of one of his earliest teams at Central Junior High School. In the third picture, Mike is flanked by his sons Christopher, left, and Chase, right. In the fourth picture, Robey is shown cutting down the nets after a sectional win as an assistant coach at Robert C. Byrd, while that photo is followed by one of Robey's top teams at BHS in 2015. In the sixth photo, Robey is shown with former BHS head Coach Gene Randolph and his best friend at RCC Coach Billy Bennett prior to a contest, while photo number seven is of Mike and his wife Michele shown enjoying some down time. That's followed by a photo or Robey hugging player Hunter Haddix as he leaves the floor during one of the Indians' most successful seasons under his tutelage. In the ninth photo,, Robey cuts down the nets after a sectional win - this time with the Indians.. And in the 10th photo, Robey is shown coaching in what would be the first game of his last season. In the photo below the Editor's Note, Robey is shown leaving the press conference  following his team's heartbreaking loss to Fairmont Senior in the Class AA semifinals in 2016 with the "Voice of the Indians" Travis  Jones  Photos by and courtesy of Mike and Michele Robey's Facebook pages.

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