LOS ANGELES — It will be business as usual next Wednesday at 5:30 a.m., when the Oregon State basketball team convenes for its daily predawn practice.
Only new coach Craig Robinson won't be there. He'll be in Chicago, hoping to celebrate a victory the night before by his brother-in-law, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
"You would have to know as a coach I'm not even thinking Tuesday is a done deal yet," Robinson said of Election Day.
Yes, it's one electoral vote at a time for the possible future First Brother-in-Law.
At the Pac-10's annual basketball media day on Thursday, it wasn't three-time Final Four entry UCLA or any of the league's other top contenders who drew the most attention.
Robinson, whose younger sister Michelle is married to Obama, was the talk of the morning, despite the fact that his team was a nearly unanimous pick to finish last in the Pac-10 this season.
Asked if it's a bit surreal to introduce his sister at the Democratic National Convention or to see her interviewed on TV by Jay Leno, Robinson said the experience has evolved.
"Surreal means dream-like. That's how it was the first six months of this process," he said. "After that it was very real, very much right in your face. Still, it's been really hard to get my arms around the fact that my sister could be first lady, my brother-in-law could be the president."
Robinson, who inherited a team that went
And he acknowledged his family's high profile has contributed to at least getting him into the living room of several promising prospects. "We need all the help we can get," he said.
A former two-time Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton, Robinson said a good indicator of Obama's judgment is the fact that he's never engaged Robinson in a basketball game of one-on-one.
"He knows exactly what he's doing," said Robinson, describing the candidate as being "in the top quartile of guys who play pickup basketball."
Pressed for a scouting report, Robinson said Obama shoots the ball well, is wiry strong and has a high basketball IQ. "He's a true lefty, a left-handed left-hander," Robinson said. "So he's going left."
That drew a chuckle from Cal coach Mike Montgomery, who followed Robinson to the interview podium.
"Craig obviously needs a lesson on this stuff," Montgomery said. "The headline tomorrow is going to be 'Brother-in-law says Barack goes way to the left.' "
USC coach Tim Floyd said the Pac-10 should rename an annual award, perhaps the coach of the year, to honor Lute Olson, who stepped down at Arizona last week.
"As an outsider (before arriving at USC), I thought of Lute as the Pac-10 for a 25-year period. "He effected change in a positive way. He conducted his entire career with dignity. He was a model for me as a young coach.
"Nobody, besides (former UCLA) coach (John) Wooden has had the kind of success he's had in this league."
Russ Pennell, the interim head coach at Arizona, said Olson phoned him Wednesday — two days after being diagnosed as having suffered a mild stroke sometime in the past year.
"I think he's relieved at the diagnosis he got. Now he can be treated," Pennell said. "He sounded in real good spirits."
Meanwhile, things aren't getting any better on the personnel front for the Wildcats. In the wake of defections by all three prospects from their recruiting class of 2009, freshman center Jeff Withey also apparently is gone. Withey missed practice Wednesday, and his mother told the Arizona Daily Star on Thursday morning that he is leaving the team.
— Jeff Faraudo
Results of the annual Pac-10 media poll (with first-place votes in parentheses):
1. UCLA (37) 397
2. Arizona State (1) 325
3. USC 292
4. Arizona 241
5. Washington 217
6. Washington State 188
7. Oregon 147
8. Cal 143
9. Stanford 115
10. Oregon State 40