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Robertson to 'put whistle up'

Longtime mentor stepping down after 48 years in coaching, 34 at Goretti

Longtime mentor stepping down after 48 years in coaching, 34 at Goretti

January 29, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

After 48 seasons and 872 prep victories, St. Maria Goretti boys basketball coach Cokey Robertson said Monday that "It's time to put the whistle up."

Robertson, who has 776 wins as the Gaels' coach to date, will step down as the at the end of this season, his 34th at Goretti.

"I wanted to see my grandson (Mitch Belella) through," Robertson said. "A lot of things are happening - my wife's retiring. I've been doing this 48 years, traveling up and down the road, and the timing's pretty good at this point."

Robertson's 872 high school wins are the second most in Maryland high school history, behind former DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten.

"His loss for us is going to be immeasurable," Goretti athletic director Carol Brashears said. "We're going to focus on getting through the rest of the basketball season. His impact for Goretti went further than the basketball court. He reached many."

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Robertson, 69, started his coaching career at Westminster High School in 1960 before moving to Gov. Thomas Johnson High, where he launched the Patriots' program. He followed that with a stint at Hagerstown Community College, where he went 89-75 before taking the job at Goretti in 1974.

"It's been a good run," Robertson said. "I've met some great people, made some great friends. We've been competitive. The little school with the little budget, and we've held our own for the most part. We were (Baltimore Catholic League) champions four times since 1985, and I think that's significant."

When his career ends, it won't be difficult for Robertson to pick out a few memories.

"The first time we were able to win the city (title) back in 1980, when we were playing North and South, that was a great accomplishment," he said. "Then in the mid-80s we joined the BCL and that was of course the Rodney (Monroe) era. For four years we were going all over the country, playing the best teams and winning more than our fair share."

Monroe earned All-America honors in 1987 - his senior season at Goretti - and ended his high school career as the leading scorer in Maryland with 3,047 points. He went on to become North Carolina State's all-time leading scorer with 2,551 points and was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1991.

While the timing may be right, Robertson knows being away from the game will be difficult.

"I'll miss going in the gym every day, teaching the game," he said. "That's my favorite part, getting the floor swept, getting the balls out, preparing a practice plan and getting the kids ready to play.

"The greatest thing I'm going to miss is the players and coaches who I've competed with. That's going to be hard to step away from. I've been very fortunate that 99 percent of the kids that came through here are still in touch, and I appreciate their years playing basketball for me. Some of the coaches I've worked with over the years made this job a heck of a lot easier."

Robertson said he met with Goretti administrators last week - "I told them I was pretty serious about hanging it up," he said - and he thanked them.

"I've had great support from the school for all I've tried to do," he said. "They accommodated me and allowed me to coach, and they supported me through good and bad. We didn't win every year, but they stayed with me."

"He really considered his basketball court a classroom," Brashears said. "He loved the game of basketball, and had a passion for the game. Not only did he teach the game, but he taught others the passion for the game."

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