In the most recent installment in his coaches interview series, CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Danny Roberts, who coached the Campbell Camels for fourteen seasons. Roberts led the Camels to two NAIA Tournament appearances and oversaw the transition from NAIA to Division I, where they are now a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Jon Teitel: You played both basketball and baseball at Campbell. Which sport were you better at and which sport did you like more?
Danny Roberts: I was better at baseball, but I liked basketball more.
JT: In 1963 you returned to Campbell to be head golf coach and assistant basketball coach under Fred McCall. Why did you decide to return to your alma mater and what did you learn from Coach McCall?
DR: I played for Coach McCall and admired him a great deal. I thought he was one of the finest fundamental coaches I had ever been around.
JT: During your eight years as a golf coach your teams were often ranked in the Top 10 in the country. What made you such a good golf coach and what was the biggest difference in coaching golf vs. coaching basketball?
DR: I just did a good job of recruiting good players.
JT: You took over for Coach McCall midway through the 1968-69 season. Was it weird to take over for him and what was the hardest part of taking over a team in the middle of the year?
DR: I was with him on a day-to-day basis, so it was not as big a change as if I had come in from outside. I liked a little different tempo than Coach McCall so I made some changes.
JT: In the 1960s and 1970s you got to meet legendary coach John Wooden, who would teach and lecture at the Campbell Basketball School. What was Coach Wooden like in person, and what was your reaction when you learned that he recently passed away?
DR: He was one of the finest men I have ever known. You were almost reverent around him; people would stop using profanity when they saw him walking by. He gave a lot of clinics to the coaches at night, and was always available to talk. He was a down to earth fellow. I got to go spend a week with him one time and pick his brain: not about basketball, but about his philosophy and the way he treated people.
JT: What are your memories of the 1970 NAIA Tournament?
DR: We lost to Texas Southern and had a great week but our biggest kid was only 6'5", and they had more talent than we did. They made their first 13 shots, and we could never get back in it.
JT: In the mid-1970s you served as a member of the NAIA All-America basketball selection committee. Why did you take the job and who was the best player you selected during that time?
DR: I was just asked to take the job and was honored to serve. I am not sure if I can pick a single best player, but Jack Sikma of Illinois Wesleyan was an awful good player who played in the NBA for many years.
JT: What are your memories of the 1977 NAIA Tournament (you became the first coach to lead an unseeded team to the NAIA finals before losing to Texas Southern and tournament MVP Alonzo Bradley)?
DR: My team just overachieved, as we had lost a few players in the two years previous. The Texas Southern team played a zone, and we missed some shots. We had a guy named Sam Staggers in the post who nobody could guard.
JT: Later that year the school made the jump from NAIA to D-1. What was the biggest difference between the two divisions and how long did it take for your team to become competitive?
DR: We were competitive for the first two years and I was proud of our kids. The schedule we played was brutal, as we often had to go out on the road as an independent school.
JT: In 1983 your team trailed Brooklyn College by 15 points with five minutes left before a Harvey Smith jumper at the end of regulation sent the game into overtime and you pulled out a six-point win. How were you able to come all the way back, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterwards?
DR: It was a great win for us, as I think it was the last game of the season on the road. I do not know how we did it, but we pressed and made them turn the ball over a lot.
Roberts is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Atlantic Sun history.
Belmont: Rick Byrd (1986-present) 488-273, three NCAA tournament appearances, three conference titles, one-time national Coach of the Year, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Campbell: Danny Roberts (1969-1983) 233-178
East Tennessee State: Murry Bartow (2003-present) 138-86, three NCAA tournament appearances, two conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Florida Gulf Coast: Dave Balza (2001-present) 143-101, one NCAA tournament appearance
Jacksonville: Joe Williams (1964-1970) 92-61, 1 NCAA tournament appearance
Kennesaw State: Tony Ingle (2000-present) 170-142, one Division II national title, one-time national Coach of the Year, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Lipscomb: Don Meyer (1975-1999) 663-181, one NAIA title, two-time national Coach of the Year
Mercer: Bill Bibb (1974-1989) 222-194, two NCAA tournament appearances, two-time conference Coach of the Year
North Florida: NO COACH HAS BEEN THERE FOR 5 YEARS
South Carolina Upstate: Eddie Payne (2002-present) 115-121, two NCAA tournament appearances, one conference title, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Stetson: Glenn Wilkes (1957-1993) 552-435