Sunday, June 14, 2009 Robinson Tough To Coach Against, But Garry St. Jean Admires Man As Much As Superstar

David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs, a member of the incoming Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2009, and teammate Tim Duncan get ready for tip-off during a game in 2003 in San Antonio.

By Ron Chimelis

Over the course of Garry St. Jean's NBA career, he faced the challenge of coaching against David Robinson, who will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September.

St. Jean's memories of Robinson, though, have as much to do with the man as the superstar.

"I hate to be cliché-ish, but David is just a beautiful person," St. Jean said. "He never tooted his own horn, and he was comfortable in his own skin.

"A beautiful player, too. So graceful."

St. Jean, who coached at Sacramento (1992-97) and Golden State (2000), and also served as the Warriors' general manager, saw Robinson's San Antonio Spurs often in Western Conference games.

The Chicopee High School and Springfield College graduate could not help but notice the personal character and presence of an admired opponent.

"I used to get a cold chill, just watching David stand at rigid attention at for the national anthem. A simple thing like that," St. Jean said.

Robinson was a proud Navy man. Long after his 1987 graduation from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, he represented it well, St. Jean said.

Robinson's NBA career was delayed for two years after graduation, while he fulfilled his Navy commitment. Later, he served the military branch as a reserve.

He had a kindred spirit in San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, an Air Force Academy graduate and a man St. Jean knows well from NBA circles.

Popovich was briefly a member of Golden State's staff in the early 1990s. By 1997, he was coach of the Spurs when Duncan came out of Wake Forest.

That gave Robinson the support he needed to help San Antonio win two NBA titles before "The Admiral," as Robinson was called (even though his actual Navy rank had been Lieutenant, Junior Grade) retired.

"Gregg used to say that when you've got David Robinson and Tim Duncan, it's a great life," St. Jean said.

St. Jean's description of Robinson portrayed not only a great player and a Renaissance man, but a family man, too.

"I met his dad, who had as big a smile as David," St. Jean said. "We were doing some charity function, and I mentioned it would be nice if we could auction off a pair of David's shoes.

"He took my address, and sure enough, about a week later, the shoes were there."

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