Coach Robin Farris Reaches the 500 Club

Over break, Robin Farris, head women’s basketball coach, reached his 500th career victory, but it’s not all about accolades for the coach


John Renfrow

Coach Robin Farris, the newest member of the NAIA Division II 500 win club, reviews his notes for practice before the Grenadiers take the floor

Coming into the 2017-18 season, there were only three NAIA Division II active women’s basketball coaches with 500 wins or more. Roughly halfway through the season, there is now a fourth. Those coaches include Lori Culler of Huntington (Ind.), David Smalley of Rio Grande (Ohio), Jamie Sale of Morningside College (Iowa), and now Robin Farris of IU Southeast.

The Grenadiers took their victory, defeating West Virginia Institute of Technology 80-54 on Jan. 4. It took Coach Farris 29 seasons at IU Southeast, as well as two additional seasons overseas, to secure his spot in the 500 club.

Farris attributes his success to his former coaches and mentors, as well as the effort and resiliency of the teams he’s been able to coach.

“It’s a great feeling,” Farris said. “A lot of coaches will try to downplay it. I’m not going to downplay it, but I also know that I would never reach that [goal] without having the opportunity to have a lot of good players play for me on a lot of good teams.”

Coach Farris instructs his players on proper defensive techniques during and inter-squad scrimmage at practice. Photo by John Renfrow.

A Focus on Defense First

Farris nods to his players’ defensive effort in the game that sealed him his 500th victory, despite the defensive struggles he said they’ve been dealing with this season. Farris said there’s a lot of truth in establishing a defense first, knowing the shots will fall eventually from an offensive standpoint.

“I think this team is capable of beating anybody, as long we can commit to two things: to try and play as the best defensive team in the league, and to try to play as the smartest team in the league,” Farris said.

Senior guard, Ashley Johnson, said her coach’s drive to success comes from an emphasis on togetherness and playing as a team, and said she enjoys being a part of the squad to help him reach this milestone. She said his reputation adds to her confidence in her team as they race towards the postseason.

“[Coach Farris] has a lot of experience, and it helps us a lot to have that experience behind us. We’re pretty confident, and I feel we’ve grown throughout the season,” Johnson said. “I feel we’ll continue growing and come postseason time, we’ll be ready.”

Sophomore guard, Madi Woods, said Farris’s own background in basketball and drive to win as a player transitions to the team during practices and games, and said his belief in their team is contagious to the rest of the players.

Instilling Off-Court Values

According to Woods, the values and lessons Farris teaches in practices will follow her far and beyond her time at IU Southeast.

“Even outside of practice, on trips and different things like that, [his lessons] have really helped me to work as hard as I can, in not just basketball, but to be the best that I can be,” Woods said.

It’s a great feeling. A lot of coaches will try to downplay it. I’m not going to downplay it, but I also know that I would never reach that [goal] without having the opportunity to have a lot of good players play for me on a lot of good teams.

— Robin Farris, head women's basketball coach

She said she believes that if the team sticks to the script defensively, as well as improving in the first-halves and finishing games strongly, it can give their team a solid chance to shine throughout the rest of the season and into the postseason.

Late in his career, Farris said his roots in IU Southeast are deep, and this is most likely his last coaching job. Farris said although he would entertain the thought of returning to Europe to coach again, at this point, IU Southeast has become home.

Without the resources and ability to recruit on a national level, Farris says a strong local recruitment process has been the most special thing about his time and his success over the years at IU Southeast.

“At this age, I would say this is my final coaching place. Simply, I like the area I live in, my family likes the area, and this is where I’ll be,” Farris said. “We’ve just had so many great local players, mostly Louisville and Southern Indiana kids, and that’s the key to it.”

IU Southeast Athletics has invited all to come out to celebrate Coach Farris’s 500th win at a ceremony prior to the matchup with Kentucky Christian on Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.