Reflections from press row on Cokey Robertson's career

February 29, 2008
(Page 2 of 3)

Cokey always said it was for the kids, but I think it was for far more than that. He did everything he could to bring the school and the town an amazing amount of good publicity - and good basketball. Deep down, there was a pride that he had in Hagerstown, and he wanted to show that to everyone.

Dan Spears, Deputy Sports Editor

Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News

Herald-Mail 1998-2002

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Cokey is fairness. And with that, I mean the give-and-take type of fairness that often exists between reporters and subjects.

I came to The Herald as a young reporter, shortly after the Rodney Monroe era at Goretti. While handling the local basketball rankings, "fairness" seemed to surface while dealing with Goretti.


As a member of the BCL, Goretti was going to take several losses - that was a given. But against local competition, few were ever better than Goretti.

I recall one season when Goretti won its holiday tournament, beating Middletown and North Hagerstown (at the time 18-4-type teams), only to finish the year with a losing record because of the BCL.

In my opinion, Goretti rightfully earned a local Top 10 ranking on the court - and I felt that was fair.

Cokey, however, saw it differently. He called me the day after a tough BCL tournament loss and requested that his team be removed from the Top 10.

"The way we played this year, we don't deserve it," he said, a statement that, more than a decade later, still echos in my head.

I found myself debating Cokey - me making a case to keep Goretti in the Top 10 and the coach scrambling for reasons to be excluded. The exchange was comical given most situations coaches are lobbying for higher rankings!

For me, fairness was defined in results.

For Cokey, fairness meant something deeper - it meant decorum.

And that season, Cokey believed other area teams were more deserving of recognition.

Sheldon Shealer and

Herald-Mail 1990-97

I covered my first St. Maria Goretti game on Dec. 18, 2002 and the Gaels led McDonogh 17-12 - at the half - and I'm thinking "What is this?"

Goretti went on to lose 57-40 with a horrible second half, something that has resonated throughout recent years. I would usually know when Cokey would think "we'd be unbeaten if we only played the first half," or when he would use the "stinker" category.

I'll not forget Super Bowl Sunday, on Jan. 26, 2003, when I covered Cokey's 700th win - a 34-33 win at Calvert Hall. That was a wonderful afternoon with Goretti fans chanting "700" at Cokey.

Most of all, it's been an honor to know the man, on and off the basketball floor and golf course.

Tim Koelble, Herald-Mail


He may not have known it, but Cokey had a way of showing his gruff, fun-loving and competitive sides all at the same time.

Back when I first started with The Herald-Mail, I was sent to cover a Goretti game. The student section sat behind Cokey in the bleachers.

As the tradition, the students would launch a shower of toilet paper rolls onto the floor after the Gaels scored their first basket. Sometimes, it would happen quickly, others it would take some time.

Every time it happened, Cokey would turn around and shoot a look at the students, almost as if he was looking for the culprit. Then a trash can would roll out and Cokey would help squeeze the Charmin into the barrel, just to get the game rolling again.

He would hate stopping the game, but he loved the support of the students.

He admits he misses that.

Bob Parasiliti, Herald-Mail


The difference bewteen watching a Cokey-coached team and just about any other team is that it seemed like his teams were never out of a game.

In a game at Mercersburg Academy a few years ago, St. Maria trailed by around 20 points in the fourth quarter. Despite being at a substantial size disadvantage and having a couple players in foul trouble, the Gaels rallied to tie the game in regulation and win it in overtime.

Clearly, with so many things working against his club, Cokey not only devised a successful strategy to win the game, but also convinced his young players that winning was still possible.

One of the marks of a quality coach is being able to win some games that his team - on paper - has no business winning. In my mind, that's what differentiates Cokey from the vast majority of the basketball coaches I've seen over the last 35 years.

Curt Hornbecker, Herald-Mail


I was covering a game during the Rodney Monroe era, and Lefty Driesell was in attendance.

Rodney put together a beautiful game that night, and while the team was in the locker room, Lefty and I were waiting in the gym to speak with Cokey.

In his southern drawl, Lefty was telling anybody who cared to listen that, "I guarantee you, I'm not going to let Rodney Monroe cross that state line. If I have to get the state police to sit at the border, I'm keeping that kid here in Maryland."

And, of course, we all know what happened.

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