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Gable: J Robinson must find other ways to create changes in wrestling
Editor’s Note: Dan Gable, who led Iowa to 15 NCAA championships between 1978 and ’99, credits much of his early teams’ success to J Robinson, who became friends with Gable at the 1971 Worlds and 1972 Olympics and later as an assistant coach at Iowa before Robinson left in 1986 and won three NCAA team titles in 30 years at Minnesota. Robinson’s tenure ended in September when the university let the 70-year-old coach go after officials said he was “not forthcoming with his superiors” as the school investigated the use and sale of the prescription drug Xanax by Minnesota wrestlers.
WIN: When you heard what happened to J Robinson, what was your reaction?
GABLE: There is a pattern with J so it didn’t surprise me. Being with J towards the end of my athletic career and the beginning of my coaching career, he was strong in his beliefs to the point that there wasn’t a whole lot of give and he really believes in his beliefs.
In the first couple years when we were both wrestling, I did not know that because we had fun and it did not surprise me that I ended up hanging with J, who was the opposite of me from a standpoint of when we’d talk. He was more boisterous while I would listen more. Before I took the head job, J was already with me as a fellow assistant to head coach Gary Kurdelmeier. We were friends and it was a natural thing that we connected. J complemented me with what I did not have.
WIN: Was J not flexible enough?
GABLE: I don’t know if I’d say that, but he has beliefs that are strong and most of them are pretty good.
WIN: J’s “strong beliefs” is also what made him a dynamic leader. Do you think the University of Minnesota failed to see that, and that led to some negativity?
GABLE: I don’t know how much give and take that he has personally when he is in charge. When I was in charge, I gave him a lot of responsibility and let him go his own way. For example, how many times does a head coach let his assistant coach also have his own wrestling camp? Unfortunately, that led to a problem. Some people thought I gave him too much autonomy. He never demanded it because he didn’t have to.
He had more to offer than just being a worker at my camp. He had his own thoughts to a higher extreme. That’s good in an overall way, but not under one tent, which is what the University of Iowa wanted. His camps were how he lived his live as far as a military-type background. I don’t think camps within an educational environment mix that well because they can be extreme.
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