Roberts still passionate about basketball, IU

If there’s one word to describe former Indiana University basketball player Mike Roberts, it’s passionate.

Roberts, whose career at IU spanned from 2000-2005, returned to Assembly Hall for a game for the first time since his Senior Night on 2005 when UNC-G visited on Friday night. Roberts is now an the associate head coach for the Spartans under former prep school teammate Wes Miller, who described his long-time friend’s homecoming.

“I’ve known Mike since I was 15 years old,” Miller said. “We went to prep school together before he came to IU. Let me just say he is passionate about Indiana. He is passionate about Bloomington. His eyes just light up when he speaks about his whole experience here, not just the basketball experience. (Thanksgiving) night he makes me go out in 15-degree weather and walk around downtown showing me every restaurant and place he used to hang out. He was really excited to be back.”

Since his playing career ended — a career in which he averaged 1.4 points and 1.0 rebounds per game, Roberts has enjoyed a variety of coaching stops, starting with a graduate assistant job under former IU coach Bob Knight at Texas Tech. From there, he spent two seasons with Ben Braun at California, then four more years with Braun at Rice. He is now in his third season at UNC-G.

“I’ve been a basketball nomad,” said Roberts, a Terre Haute native who redshirted during the 2001-02 season when IU went to the national title game after chipping a bone in his ankle on Oct. 31, 2001. “I’ve been really fortunate to work for two really good bosses in Ben Braun at Cal and Rice, then Coach Miller. Coach Miller and I actually played prep school basketball together, so we go way back. Really good men, and that’s why I love coaching. I feel like you get to impact kids’ lives and it’s not a desk job, so I’ve been unbelievably blessed and fortunate.”

His passion is evident on the sideline during games as well, as he is constantly pointing, gesturing emphatically and even hopping up and down on an invisible pogo stick signaling the defense during the Spartans’ second-half run that cut the IU lead to single digits.

And after the game, the always competitive Roberts was still disappointed in the loss.

“Obviously, I’d have liked a different result, but our kids fought really hard, so that’s something to be proud of,” he said. “The players take on the personality of the head coach, and our head coach Wes Miller is one of the most competitive guys I know. As an assistant you try to add to that, have them prepared from a tactical standpoint. Then from the other standpoint, you’ve got to get them ready to compete and if they don’t compete, hold them accountable for it. Pretty simple. Not easy to do, but simple in theory.”

Despite making his first trip to the visitors’ locker room and having Spartan players make fun of his picture in the hallways of Assembly Hall, Roberts was glad to be back.

“I don’t really remember the details of a lot of the games, because I’ve been doing this so many years now coaching and playing,” Roberts said. “But I saw Dr. Rink, Dr. Ahlfeld, and it brought back a lot of memories of people and what people have done for me at this university.

“Yeah, it felt a lot different, but it was good to be back. This place has done a lot for me and I felt real fortunate to get to come back in a different capacity.”

As far as Miller is concerned, getting Roberts back to Indiana more often just might be a good idea.

“Any time we can get Mike Roberts back to the state of Indiana, he’s a happy camper,” the UNC-G head coach said. “And if we can get him to Bloomington, he’s going to be really happy.”