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Sue Bush
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iBerkshires Profiles: "Frankie Passion For Coaching Award" Winner Bill Robinson

By Susan Bush
09:00AM / Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hoosac Valley High School boys basketball Coach Bill Robinson is the first Northern Berkshire coach to be honored with a "Frankie Passion For Coaching Award," created in memory of Coach Frank Zoltek. [Photo by Sue Bush]
Berkshire Profile is pleased to return as "iBerkshires Profiles." The weekly Sunday feature will continue to focus on individuals making a difference in their communities with expanded profiles that include those living in Southern Vermont. iBerkshires Profile plans to showcase the everyday folks and entities making our region a unique and wonderful place to call home.

Adams - Hoosac Valley High School boys basketball coach William R. "Bill" Robinson remembered the moment with crystal clarity.

It was the evening of June 6 at the North Adams County Club in Clarksburg, and the first person ever to be honored with the "Frankie Passion for Coaching Award" was about to be named.

The name announced was his.

The Best

"The first thing was that I really didn't believe I'd win this award," said Robinson during a June 11 interview at the Main Street office. "The nominees - Dave Paulsen, John Franzoni, Jay Meehan, Holly McGovern, John Estes - all such great coaches and I'm thinking 'why me?' After hearing my name, the emotions overtook me. To be considered in the same breath as Coach Zoltek, well, I was just dumbfounded for those first moments. Those were very special moments."

The "Frankie Passion For Coaching Award" [Photo by Sue Bush]
The "Frankie" is named for longtime, revered athletic Coach Frank Zoltek, who died while fishing during 2005. And Robinson is no stranger to accolades; he's been named as a WBEC-Banknorth Coach of the Year, a Massachusetts State Coach of the Year, and has received additional honors.

But this honor represents a pinnacle of Robinson's coaching career, he said.

"[The Zoltek honor] was by far the best award I've ever won," he said.

Zoltek was a teacher and coached throughout most of his adult life. He was a St. Joseph's High School head basketball coach, an assistant basketball coach for Williams College, a head coach for the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Drury. Zoltek even coached golf at Drury.

Robinson, 43, was a member of the Hoosac Valley High School Class of 1982. Zoltek was a Drury coach who brought the 1981-82 and 1982-83 Drury High School boys basketball teams to Western Massachusetts titles.

"That's how I first got to know him, playing against him," Robinson said.

"He Knew So Much"

Robinson was coaching basketball at HVHS during the 1989-90 school year. That was the year the Zoltek's good friend Ed Noel stepped down as a Drury High School junior varsity coach, and that was when Robinson decided to apply for Noel's job.

"I'd been coaching at Hoosac Valley and I wanted to get another view of the game," Robinson said. "I applied for the post and I got it. And he took me in; you know, I was probably about 25 years old at that point, and you think you know everything. Well, I knew nothing. And he knew so much. He did things I never would have thought of doing. He knew all kinds of things, how to prepare for practice, how to discipline, how to be fair but firm, how to get it across that are no 'superstars.'"

Robinson was captivated by Zoltek's coaching style and perhaps more importantly, impressed by Zoltek's results.

"I watched Coach Zoltek turn kids lives right around," Robinson said. "Some of the kids were borderline and he just turned them around. And that's the most of what I took out of it. Not all the strategies but the life lessons."

Robinson worked as a member of the Drury coaching staff for a year, and was then hired as a head varsity basketball coach at HVHS.

"And I've had a lot of 'what would Coach Zoltek do' moments," Robinson said.

Direct Links To The Community

A distinct shadow crossed Robinson's face as he said "Until [the day Zoltek died], we could all just pick up a phone...."

"Northern Berkshire basketball is what it is today because of Coach Zoltek," Robinson said, and noted that Franzoni, Meehan, and Racette were members of the '81-'82, '82-'83 Drury championship teams.

Zoltek "worked religiously" with local athlete Erika Desanty, a Colby Sawyer College graduate who has accepted a Williams College women's basketball team assistant coaching job.

"There are all kinds of direct links from Coach Zoltek to this community," Robinson said. "That's how much he meant to us and it goes beyond a coach-player relationship. We are who we are today because of him."

Value And Reward

Robinson spent his childhood on East Orchard Street in Adams and attended the Hoosac Street school as a boy.

"Back then, we had Little League [baseball] and some Police Athletic Association basketball," he said. "In high school I played baseball and basketball."

Youth athletics are a huge benefit to those who become involved, Robinson said.

"I believe athletics build character and responsibility," he said. "You have to answer to your team as part of a group. I can go on and on, athletics teach how to control emotions, it teaches that you can't just blow up or there's a price to be paid. Athletics teaches a work ethic, which is really needed today. [High school athletes] understand the value of working hard and seeing the rewards for working hard."

Academics are valued by Robinson, he said.

"I try to stay on top of my kids with their grades," he said."I look at report cards and I don't just look at grades, I look at conduct. We don't want our kids misbehaving. We want the kids to have respect for their teachers and for each other."

All You Can Ask For

Respect is important throughout any life and that is another reason for Robinson's belief that the "Frankie" is the epitome of honor.

"I was nominated by Daniel Caritey, the athletic director of [Hoosac Valley High School]," Robinson said. "The way this worked is that all the nominees and the nominators had to vote but the nominees could not vote for themselves and the person who nominated you couldn't vote for you."

The emotions edged into Robinson's voice as he explained what that dynamic meant.

"So having to vote like that, it means that my peers believe I am a passionate coach," he said. "This voting process is as much of an honor as the award itself. These are the people I respect, the people I try to emulate. To realize that your peers think you are special, well, that's about all you can ask for."

Everlasting Effect

Robinson is a 1987 graduate of MCLA, then known as North Adams State College. He works for the Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan, and Collins Insurance Agency. Robinson lives with his family in Adams. He has three daughters, Samantha, 14, McKenzie, 10, and Riley, 4.

Robinson has no plans to leave the region, he said.

"I think quality of life and raising a family here is terrific," he said. "People will rally around you if there are problems and there's plenty to do here. Getting involved in your kids' lives, that's something people around here can do."

"And some people you meet around here have an everlasting effect on you," Robinson said. "That was Coach Zoltek. He had an effect on this whole region. For us that are involved with high school sports, we don't think anyone will come along that will mean as much to [basketball] as Coach Zoltek."

The man who earned the first honor presented in his mentor's name paused.

"I've been doing this for 17 years and if I can give back half of what Coach Zoltek gave, just half of it, then I'll be a success."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or 413-663-3384 ext. 29.
Your Comments
Post Comment
Congrats to Coach Robinson. Well deserved to a man who puts in 150% to his team and to the game of basketball.
I can only wish that my child could play for him..
from: Amyon: 06-28 00:00:00-2007

Great article, well written and such a grand tribute to Frankie. The choice for the award couldn't have gone to a better person,coach and family man. He stands for so much of Frankie's ideals and values.
I am sure he is proud to be compared to a man he so respected.
from: Zoeon: 06-25 00:00:00-2007

Two incredible mentors, coaches and teachers. Frank changed the lives of many young men in a profoundly positive way, as is Bill Robinson. You see their successes not only in the number of wins, records and titles but in the influence they have in the lives of the young men they worked with. A small town legend, and another in the making ...
from: Charleson: 06-18 00:00:00-2007

Coach Z was my teacher in high school, my son Drew's mentor and my husband Mike's best friend and fishing buddy 'til the very end. Two days before he passed I had a phone conversation with Frank and he said how much he respected Robbie (that is what he called Coach Robinson) and also spoke very highly of Coach Racine and Coach Franzoni. He was a "special" person and my family feels honored to have known him. He is greatly missed by all. A special thanks to everyone involved in the banquet, especially Coach Noel. It brought back great memories of a great man.
from: Maryon: 06-18 00:00:00-2007

Coach Zoltek will never be forgotten. Coach Robinson, also a fine coach, is right when he says Coach Z had an everlasting effect on the area. And so will Coach Robinson.
from: Amyon: 06-18 00:00:00-2007

Frank Zoltek was a great man and a great coach. Always one to have words of wisdom on the game of life. He will be forever missed but hopefully his attitude and honesty will be remembered forever. Thank you Coach Z! Congrates Coach Robinson!
from: Kellyon: 06-17 00:00:00-2007

I follow high school sports, basketball in particular. Zoltek is a true legend and Robinson is making his own mark on the sport. I agree with him that the other coaches nominated are all great coaches. But it all started with Coach Frank Zoltek
from: Dan from Pittsfieldon: 06-17 00:00:00-2007

What a great story! Coach Zoltek was a legend and is dearly missed. Coach Robinson has built a great program at Hoosac and is incredibly deserving of this award.
from: Joe from NAon: 06-17 00:00:00-2007

Congratulations Coach Robinson
from: Bobon: 06-17 00:00:00-2007

AWESOME story about two great guys! I loved Coach Z and I think the first "Frankie" went to the right coach.
from: John M.on: 06-17 00:00:00-2007

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