Originally created 11/13/97

USC-Aiken coach making debut tonight



AIKEN -- If there is one thing that Mike Roberts hoped he learned from his dad, it's how to deal with young people.

Roberts, whose father is former Clemson coach Bobby Roberts, makes his college coaching debut tonight when USC-Aiken travels to Charlotte, N.C., to take on Queens College at 7:30 p.m.

The two Roberts talk a lot of basketball strategy and know the game very well. But the younger Roberts says his dad's significance goes deeper than that.

"It's not so much the Xs and Os as how he deals with young people," Mike Robert said. "He was always honest with his players and those were some of the biggest lessons that I learned. From talking to his former players, they had great respect for him and that was very insightful. His teams were accused of being short on talent sometimes but not on how hard they played for him."

Bobby Roberts, who coached at Clemson from 1963-70, was at the school when Littlejohn Coliseum opened in 1968. His teams were 82-116, but he set a then-record 41 wins over ACC teams. His 1966-67 team finished 17-8 and beat the four North Carolina schools -- North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest -- in an eight-day span.

His 14 ACC road wins set a school record that has since been tied by former Bill Foster and Cliff Ellis.

The elder Roberts thinks the USC-Aiken coach has a good grasp on his new job.

"I think he's pretty well set the tempo," the Bobby Roberts said. "They (the players) know what to expect and he has an experienced group back with Kendrick (Smith), Derek (Moore), Thomas (Ryan), Brandon (Richardson) and Marc (Hutcheson). He has a chance to be pretty successful this year."

Newcomer Juan Wiley, a 6-foot-6 junior-college transfer from Jacksonville, Fla., also makes his debut tonight. Wiley, who transferred from Santa Fe Community College, said it's been a lot of fun playing for his new coach.

"He's real competitive but that's good," Wiley said. "He tries to get us to go at each other real hard in practice and to make each of us better."

Many of the players are glad to be playing the new, up-tempo style that Roberts has brought in, replacing the half-court style of former coach Larry The team finished 12-15 last year.

Six different players reached double figures in a 97-87 exhibition win over the Columbia Sharkheads on Monday night. The Pacers led 51-38 at intermission. There were times last year when the team might not score 60 points.

"We are playing a different way than we've had in the past and it's exciting," point guard Thomas Ryan said. "I love the up-tempo style and we have a lot more opportunities to shoot and score."

Bobby Roberts said he's going to stay out of the way of his son's team and let him coach. He said he will not give any advice unless his son asks.

Mike Roberts said he will not be any more nervous than anybody else going into his collegiate coaching debut. He doesn't mind that his father will be sitting in the stands behind the bench at many of his games this season.

"It's a good comfort really," Mike Roberts said. "When things are going smooth, he's not the type to come around much (at practice). But when things are tough, he'll probably show up more. He's been through the good times and he's been through the bad times."

Hopefully, things will be good for the younger Roberts and the elder Roberts can continue to work on his golf game at the Palmetto Golf Club.