Former New York Jets head coach Joe Walton dies at 85

Walton’s 54 wins as a head coach are good for second in New York Jets history and he also spent four seasons as a tight end for the Giants.

Former New York Jets head coach Joe Walton passed away on Sunday at the age of 85. His passing was confirmed through an announcement from Robert Morris University athletics. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Walton spent seven years (1983-89) at the helm of the Jets, posting a 54-59-1 record (including 1-2 in the playoffs). His 54 wins are the second-best tally in team history behind only Weeb Ewbank’s 71. Walton previously served as the Jets’ offensive coordinator for two seasons (1981-82).

“Joe Walton poured his heart into this franchise for nine seasons,” the Jets said in a statement. “Joining us as an offensive coordinator before taking over as the Head Coach [sic], Joe fielded some of the franchise’s most productive offenses and helped the team to four playoff appearances during his tenure. He was a good man, who cared for his players, and loved the game of football.”

Walton entered the NFL in 1957 as a second-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins, following in his father Frank’s footsteps. The younger Walton, a defensive end and later a tight end, had been a unanimous All-American at Pittsburgh before his NFL entry. He went on to play 82 games over seven seasons and was traded to the New York Giants in 1961. Walton’s most notable moment as a player came in 1962 when he caught Y.A. Tittle’s record-tying seventh touchdown pass in a single game, a 49-34 win over Washington.

After retiring due to injuries in 1964, Walton became a Giants scout (1965-68) and later the receivers’ coach (1969-73) before going back to Washington as the running backs coach (1974-77) and offensive coordinator (1978-80). He ended his NFL tenure as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator after his Jets tenure ended (1990-91).

Despite his success in the NFL, Walton is perhaps best known for his endeavors at Robert Morris University. He built the Colonials’ football program from scratch at the Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) level and guided the team to Northeast Conference championships in each of its first five seasons as a member, a stretch that included a perfect 10-0 record in 2000. In 2010, Walton and the Colonials earned the NEC’s first FCS playoff berth with an 8-3 mark.

RMU’s athletic stadium, which opened in 2005 bears Walton’s name. He would spend 20 seasons as the program’s head coach before retiring after the 2013 campaign. Walton was inducted into the university’s athletic hall of fame in that same here, his induction hosted by former NFL protege Joe Theismann. Other notable names to work under Walton’s watch included Fran Tarkenton and Ken O’Brien.

“Joe loved football. In a career that spanned six decades, he served as a player, scout, and coach-all while making a positive impression on the people he crossed paths with,” Jets owner Woody Johnson added in another statement. “While he did everything he could for this franchise, his legacy is that of a person who gave his all to the sport, going on to help grow the game by starting a football program at Robert Morris University and giving many others the opportunity to be part of the game.”

Walton is survived by his second wife Patty (his first wife Ginger passed in 2007) and their three children, Jodi, Stacy, and Joe.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets assistant coach Greg Knapp passes away at 58

New York Jets

Knapp, an NFL coaching staple since 1997, was set to be the New York Jets’ passing game coordinator after three years in Atlanta.

The New York Jets confirmed the passing of assistant coach Greg Knapp on Thursday afternoon. Knapp, 58, was critically injured when he was struck by a vehicle while riding his bike over the weekend in San Ramon, CA.

“Today at 11:32 am PST, Greg Knapp (aka Knapper) was called back home to Heaven, where he will be reunited with his Dad,” the Knapp family wrote in a statement on the Jets’ website. “Those of us who were so blessed to have known him, know that he would have wanted even this moment to be a teachable one. So this is it…”Live every day as if it’s your last, and love those around you like it won’t last!”

“Greg’s infectious personality is most people’s first and lasting memory of him. The phrase “He never met a stranger” encapsulates Knapper’s zest for life. He had a unique gift to make everyone feel special, and to Knapper, they all were. While his family, friends, and players still had so much to learn from him and desperately wished they had more time with him, God called an audible and wanted to go over the game plan directly with him. It will certainly be a masterpiece, just like Greg!”

Knapp was set to join the Jets after three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons as the quarterbacks coach. He had been a staple on NFL coaching staffs since 1997 after a record-breaking career as a passer at Sacramento State. His time in the league included offensive coordinator stints in San Francisco (2001-03), Atlanta (2004-06), Oakland (2007-08, 2012), and Seattle (2009).

Through his coaching endeavors, Knapp is perhaps best known for his time as the Denver Broncos’ quarterbacks coach, working with Peyton Manning during one of the most illustrious statistical seasons in NFL history (5,477 yards and 55 touchdown passes during the 2013 campaign). Two years later, he became a Super Bowl champion, partaking in the Broncos’ triumph over Carolina in the game’s 50th edition. Other quarterbacks who worked under Knapp included Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Michael Vick, and Matt Ryan.

Tributes poured in from both the Jets spectrum and across the league after news of Knapp’s passing broke.

“In his short time with us, Greg had an immediate influence on those who had the pleasure of spending the smallest amount of time with him,” Jets chairman Woody Johnson said. “His legacy is not only working with some of the brightest quarterbacks the league has ever seen, but the countless others across this world he has had an indelibly positive influence on.”

“He lived life in a loving way that helped him connect with people from all walks of life in a unique way,” head coach Robert Saleh added. “Greg had such an inner peace about him that people always seemed to gravitate towards.”

Knapp is survived by his wife Charlotte and their three daughters Jordan, Natalie, and Camille. Well-wishers are encouraged to post here.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel passes away at 71

Fassel earned 60 wins over seven seasons at the helm of the New York Giants, reaching Super Bowl XXXV in 2001.

Former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel passed away on Monday at the age of 71. Fassel’s death was first reported by Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by his son John.

Fassel is best known for his seven-year stint (1997-2003) at the helm of the Giants, earning a 58-53-1 record. His 58 wins are good for the fourth-best tally in franchise history. Fassel’s New York career began in 1991 when he took the Giants’ quarterbacks coach job under Bill Parcells after five seasons as the head man at the University of Utah. He was the Giants’ offensive coordinator during the 1992 season taking assistant coaching stints in Denver, Oakland, and Arizona.

The Giants welcomed Fassel back in 1997 when he succeeded Dan Reeves as the head coach. With a 10-5-1 mark, Fassel guided the Giants to their first NFC East division title in seven years and earned Coach of the Year honors for the turnaround efforts.

Fassel’s New York masterpiece came in 2000 when he guided the Giants to a Super Bowl appearance. The Giants started the year by winning seven of their first nine games but faced scrutiny after dropping consecutive home contests to St. Louis and Detroit. Following the latter loss to the Lions, Fassel boldly declared “this team is going to the playoffs”.

New York would then go on to win their last five regular season contests en route to winning not only the NFC East but the top seed in the conference as well. They would then top Philadelphia and Minnesota to reach Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. The latter showing against the Vikings was one of the most lopsided postseason contests in NFL postseason history, as the Giants earned a 41-0 win and outgained them 518-114. A third Super Bowl was not to be, however, as the Giants fell to the Baltimore Ravens in the game’s 35th edition.

Fassel would lead the Giants to the playoffs one last time in 2003, falling to San Francisco in the wild card round. He and the Giants parted ways after the following season, after which he spent three seasons in Baltimore, the latter two as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator. After a three-year hiatus, Fassel returned to coaching in 2009, joining the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League. Las Vegas won each of the first two UFL titles and held an undefeated 4-0 record when the league suspended operations in 2012.

According to Farmer’s report, Fassel, who continued to live in Las Vegas, suffered chest pains on Monday and was taken to a hospital, where he died of a heart attack while under sedation. He is survived by four children, including John, who currently serves as the special teams coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Former New York Giants assistant Marty Schottenheimer passes at 77

Marty Schottenheimer

Best known for his head coaching exploits, Schottenheimer spent three seasons as an assistant with the New York Giants in the 1970s.

Former New York Giants assistant coach Marty Schottenheimer passed away peacefully on Monday, per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Schottenheimer was 77 and had been moved into hospice care five days prior.

Schottenheimer is best known for his head coaching exploits, earning 200 regular-season victories over 21 seasons in Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington, and San Diego. He is one of seven coaches to reach the double-century mark. Schottenheimer was renowned for playing “Marty ball” during his time as head coach, often placing an emphasis on the run game. Among the rushers he worked with were Marcus Allen, Stephen Davis, and LaDanian Tomlinson.

Though Schottenheimer fell short of a Super Bowl, he was well respected and beloved by his coaches and players alike.

“Marty and I were close, and what a great person,” current Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Schottenheimer, per Brandon Judd of Desert News. “He was great to me as a young football coach. Nobody did it better than he did.”

“Marty is one of the guys who has had the biggest influence on my career, without question,” New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees told Steve Doerschuk of CantonRep.com in September 2018. Schottenheimer had overseen the first years of Brees’ professional career as a second-round pick of the Chargers in 2001. “He coached me for four years in San Diego. I respect him so much.”

Schottenheimer also spent six seasons as a player, as he was chosen in both the AFL and NFL Drafts in 1965. He opted to sign with the former, playing four seasons in Buffalo and two more with the Boston Patriots.

On a local level, Schottenheimer began his NFL coaching career with the New York Giants in 1975 after a single year with the World Football League’s Portland Storm. Schottenheimer served as Big Blue’s linebackers coach for two seasons before becoming the defensive coordinator for a single year in 1977. Linebacker Brad Van Pelt reached the first couple of five Pro Bowls under Schottenheimer’s watch. He moved on to Detroit and later Cleveland afterward, becoming the Browns’ head coach in the middle of the 1984 season. Cleveland reached the playoffs in each of his four full seasons at the helm, including two trips to the AFC title game.

Schottenheimer last appeared in the NFL in 2006, guiding the San Diego Chargers to a franchise-best 14 wins. Though he was controversially let go by the Chargers, Schottenheimer remained active in NFL affairs through a studio analyst role on ESPN. Schottenheimer would later earn an elusive professional championship in the short-lived United Football League as the head coach and general of the Virginia Destroyers in 2011.

The Canonsburg, Pennsylvania native was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, but his diagnosis was not announced publicly until five years later. He remained mostly out of the public eye but returned to Arrowhead Stadium in December 2018 to watch Reid attempt to pass him on the all-time coaching wins list. Schottenheimer remains the all-time leader in victories as the Chiefs’ head coach with 104, with Reid currently one behind at 103.

Schottenheimer is survived by his wife Pat, to whom he married since 1968, and their children Brian and Kristen. Brian previously served as the New York Jets’ offensive coordinator (2006-11) and recently took on quarterbacks coaching duties in Jacksonville.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Former New York Jets LB coach Kevin Greene passes away at 58

Born in Schenectady, Greene spent two seasons with the New York Jets as the linebackers coach on Todd Bowles staff.

Former NFL linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Greene passed away on Monday at the age of 58. Greene’s family confirmed his passing but the cause of death was not disclosed.

Born in Schenectady, Greene spent 15 NFL seasons as a linebacker. He then served as an outside linebackers coach for seven seasons, including two campaigns (2017-18) with the New York Jets.

“Our thoughts are with the family of NFL legend Kevin Greene,” the Jets said in a statement regarding Green’s passing. “A former Jets coach, Kevin made a positive impact on everyone he met. He’ll be missed.”

Greene began his career as a fifth-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1985 after walking on at Auburn. He also partook in military training in college and chosen in both the NFL and USFL drafts. Greene would go on to become one of the most dominant defensive forces in the 1980s and 1990s, earning at least 10 sacks in 10 of his 15 professional seasons, leading the league in the category twice (1994, 1996). Green ended his career in third place on the all-time sacks list (160) and remains in that spot behind only Bruce Smith and Reggie White.

In addition to the Rams, Greene also spent time with the Steelers, Panthers, and 49ers. He was later named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990s, a decade that saw him in the Defensive Player of the Year Award with Carolina in 1996.

In addition to his football career, Greene also had a stint on the World Championship Wrestling circuit, briefly working in a tag team tandem with fellow NFL alum Steve McMichael. Green would later return to the NFL in 2009, a decade after his retirement, to serve as the outside linebackers coach for the Green Bay Packers, helping the team win Super Bowl XLV in 2011.

“He’s the kind of coach I’ve always loved to have,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said of Greene during 2017 OTAs in video from the Jets. “He’s just intense all the time. Gets after it. He feeds off of us; we feed off of him. He’s just old-school. He went to Auburn, so I’ve got the SEC love with him. Talk trash with him all the time. He’s just a great coach, and watching him, trying to replicate his technique is all what I’m trying to do in OTAs. Just learning how he wants things done and doing it his way.”

Greene is survived by his wife Tara and children Gavin and Gabrielle.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Former Giants/Jets strength coach Markus Paul passes away at 54

NFL, Football

Paul had nearly three decades of NFL experience under his belt, including 14 years in the metropolitan football realm.

Markus Paul, an NFL strength and conditioning coach with ties to the New York area passed away on Wednesday at the age of 54. The cause of death has not been disclosed. Paul was serving as the strength and conditioning coach of the Dallas Cowboys at the time of his death. Dallas canceled practice on Wednesday after Paul was rushed to the hospital after experiencing a medical emergency. The team will observe a moment of silence prior to their Thursday afternoon game against Washington.

Paul was a two-time All-American safety at Syracuse before being chosen in the fourth round of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. After five years as a player with Chicago and Tampa Bay, Paul joined the New Orleans Saints as an assistant strength and conditioning coach, serving in that role for two years before joining the New England Patriots in the same capacity for five. Paul returned to New York as the director of physical development of the Jets before becoming their head strength and conditioning coach. He would then go on to spend 12 years as an assistant coach with the Giants, winning two Super Bowls with the team. Paul partook in five Super Bowl-winning efforts during his NFL service, including the last two with the Giants (2008, 2012). Paul had joined the Cowboys in the same role last season and was promoted back to the head role upon the arrival of Mike McCarthy.

Several of Paul’s former players paid tribute to their coach on social media upon learning of his passing.

Both the Giants and Jets penned statements commemorating his time with their respective organizations.

“All of us with the Giants, the Mara and Tisch families, and the entire organization, extend our deepest condolences on the passing of Markus Paul,” the Giants said. “Markus was a beloved member of our organization for several years. Our prayers of comfort and peace are with his family, the Dallas Cowboys, and his many friends across the NFL and beyond. He will be greatly missed.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of Markus Paul, who spent two years with us in 2005-06,” the Jets added in their statement. “He was a kind man who made a lasting impact on those fortunate to have crossed his path.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New Jersey native, NBA legend Tommy Heinsohn passes away at 86

Heinsohn was born in Jersey City and starred for Saint Michael’s School before building a legendary NBA career in Boston.

The Boston Celtics announced the passing of team legend Tommy Heinsohn earlier this week at the age of 86.

Heinsohn is best known for his role in the Celtics’ glory years, winning ten NBA championships as a player and a coach. He partook in nine seasons (1956-65) as a player on the team’s hallowed parquet floor, winning a title in all but one of those seasons. Upon the retirement of former teammate and player-coach Bill Russell in 1969, Heinsohn returned to Boston as the team’s head coach, winning two more titles. He is one of two NBA inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to be honored as both a player and coach, joining Lenny Wilkens.

Prior to his tours in Boston, Heinsohn, a native of Jersey City, was a star at St. Michael’s School in nearby Union City. He would earn 28 points a game, All-American honors, and scholarship offers from numerous prominent schools. The College of Holy Cross in Worcester, MA would foreshadow his New England basketball endeavors. Heinsohn would depart as the men’s program’s all-time leading scorer and helped the team to an NIT championship in 1954.

More recently, Heinsohn gained further fame as the television voice of the Celtics. Serving as an analyst, Heinsohn was routinely paired with play-by-play man Mike Gorman since 1981, the two forming one of the longest broadcasting tandems through several iterations of what is now NBC Sports Boston. Through this role, Heinsohn is the only person to serve in an official capacity with the Celtics for each of their NBA-record 17 championships. During broadcasts, Heinsohn was known for his unapologetic favoritism toward the Celtics and would routinely award “Tommy Points” to players giving extra effort.

Numerous tributes from the basketball world have emerged in Heinsohn’s honor since his passing.

“We were rookies together and friends for life,” Russell said in a tweet, including a photo of he and Heinsohn celebrating with then-Celtics head coach Red Auerbach. “In life there are a limited number of true friends, today I lost one. RIP Heiny.”

Active NBA free agent Isaiah Thomas, who most recently played for the Washington Wizards last season, recalled that Heinsohn would affectionately refer to him as “the little guy” and shared a post commemorating Heinsohn’s enthusiastic reaction to Thomas breaking 50 points in a December 2016 win over Miami. A frequent earner of Tommy Points, Thomas said that he “(w)ill miss his voice and everything he brought to the game especially Celtics basketball”.

Heinsohn is survived by two sons (Paul and David), and one daughter (Donna).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Multi-position player Paul Crane passes away at 76

Crane played all seven seasons of his professional career with the New York Jets, playing both center and linebacker.

Former New York Jet Paul Crane passed away this week at the age of 76. His death was first reported by Creg Stephenson of AL.com, who confirmed it through Bill Griffin, the athletic director at McGill-Toolen Catholic School, where Crane served as the head coach of the football team for eight seasons.

Crane’s impact on the Jets began before he ever set foot in New York, originally serving as Joe Namath’s center at the University of Alabama. Despite earning All-American honors twice and helping the Crimson Tide earn consecutive national championships, Crane went undrafted in both the NFL and AFL Drafts. He was signed by the Jets in 1966 and played 88 games over seven seasons.

The Jets used Crane as a linebacker during his professional career. He partook in the Jets’ victory in Super Bowl III, earning a tackle in the Jets’ 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts. At circa 210 pounds, Crane was considered undersized, leading the Jets to also use him as a defensive back. He would earn five interceptions over the course of his career, including three during the 1969 season. One of those was taken back for a touchdown in the Jets’ season-opening win in Buffalo. A year prior, Crane earned AFL Defensive Player of the Week honors for blocking a punt that led to a safety in the Jets’ 20-14 win over Houston.

In a nod to his college roots, Crane also served as the Jets’ long snapper on special teams. Crane would assist and deter kicks on each side of the ball. His five blocks are a Jets record, tied with Joe Klecko.

Namath praised Crane for his contributions when the Jets’ Super Bowl squad reunited for the 50th anniversary of their historic win.

“When I look around the room, I see Paul, I see Carl (MacAdams), I see Rocky [Paul Rochester], teammates that didn’t get the spotlight on them all the time,” Namath said, per team reporter Randy Lange. “And when we get together, it’s just like yesteryear. This is like 1968, 1969, this group of guys, these teammates. We’re together. We do bust some chops now and then, too, but we had a unity. And to this day, when we look at each other, man, it’s like we’ve been together all these years. We won it and I’m thankful.”

Crane is survived by his wife Heike.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Original New York Liberty head coach Nancy Darsch passes away at 68

Darsch led the New York Liberty in their first two seasons and partook in the inaugural WNBA Championship in 1997.

Former New York Liberty head coach Nancy Darsch passed away on Monday at the age of 68. Darsch was the original coach of the franchise upon its inception in 1997, sitting at the helm for two seasons. She was said to be battling Parkinson’s disease.

“The New York Liberty join the basketball community in mourning the loss of the franchise’s first-ever head coach, Nancy Darsch,” the Liberty wrote in a team statement. “Coach Darsch led the Liberty for two years, including the WNBA’s inaugural season in 1997. We are grateful for Nancy’s leadership as a pioneer of this game. Her contributions to the advancement of both collegiate and professional women’s basketball, and her passion for the game will forever be felt.”

Darsch and the Liberty earned the first win in WNBA history in June 1997, as they topped the Los Angeles Sparks 67-57. The Liberty finished 17-11 in that opening season and partook in the inaugural WNBA Championship, then a one-game playoff, against Houston at the end of the year. They were able to improve their tally to 18-12 the following season, but lost out on a return trip to the playoffs through a tiebreaker. Darsch then became the head coach of the Washington Mystics, lasting two seasons in the nation’s capital before the rest of her WNBA career featured assistant coaching stints in Minnesota and Seattle. In the latter stop, Darsch was on the bench for the Storm’s second WNBA Finals victory in 2010.

Prior to her New York endeavors, Darsch was best known for her time as the head coach of Ohio State’s women’s basketball program (1985-98). Under her rule, the Buckeyes reached the NCAA Tournament in each of her first five seasons at the helm and appeared in the national title game in 1993. Darsch previously as an assistant under Pat Summit at the University of Tennessee and later briefly returned to the college bench at Boston College (2006-07). She also played an active role in international hardwood affairs with Team USA, earning a pair of Olympic gold medals as an assistant coach (1984, 1996).

Tributes have poured in for Darsch across the basketball world on social media.

“I was always listening Coach Darsch!” former Liberty star Teresa Weatherspoon wrote on Instagram. Thank you for everything you’ve done in this game of basketball and for the impact you’ve had in so many lives, especially mine. Thank you for understanding my passion and allowing me to be me. NY LIBERTY FOR LIFE! WE LOVE YOU!!! Rest now Coach!!!”

Former Liberty head coach and Ohio State alumna Katie Smith left a multi-photo tribute, reminiscing on the pair’s successful endeavors in Columbus.

“You coached and were friends with the best, won at all levels but Nancy you were an even better person and friend,” Smith wrote. “Her smile, playful punch and just genuine caring spirit will be missed by many.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Clifford Robinson, NY State native, former Net, passes away at 53

The Buffalo native reached the 1994 NBA All-Star Game and spent his final three seasons with the New Jersey Nets.

Buffalo native and former NBA All-Star Clifford Robinson passed away on Saturday at the age of 53. His death was confirmed by his alma mater, the University of Connecticut, and the cause has yet to be disclosed.

Robinson was born in Buffalo and got his start at Riverside High School. He then spent four seasons at UConn, where his No. 00 was retired in 2007. His efforts in Storrs led him to be selected in the second round (36th overall) of the 1989 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.

During his eight seasons in Portland, Robinson established himself as one of the Association’s most impactful bench players, averaging 16.2 points and 5.2 rebounds. Robinson played a major in Portland’s most recent treks to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. During the latter journey, Robinson popularized a dance he labeled the “Uncle Cliffy”, a moniker that would come to define him for the rest of his career. Robinson even referenced the dance in his Twitter handle.

He also displayed remarkable durability, missing no games in any of his first five seasons. His streak of 461 consecutive games in a Blazers uniform stands as a Portland record. His individual efforts were rewarded with the 1993 Sixth Man of the Year Award and an invite to the 1994 NBA All-Star Game in Minneapolis.

Robinson signed with the Phoenix Suns in 1997. Notably, he became the oldest player in NBA history (33 years, two months) to record his first 50-point game in a January 2000 win over Denver. Robinson was also named to two NBA All-Defensive Teams at the ages of 33 and 35.

After tenures with Phoenix, Detroit, and Golden State, Robinson joined the New Jersey Nets in February 2005 via a trade with the Warriors. He came up big early on, scoring 11 fourth-quarter points in his sixth game with the team, a 99-93 win over Philadelphia. The Nets reached the playoffs in each of his three seasons with the team. He would retire after the Nets released him in July 2007. Robinson ended his NBA career as the tallest player (6 feet, 10 inches) to hit at least 1,000 three-pointers in his NBA career. He tallied averages of 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds over 18 seasons.

“Cliff played very well for us, number one,”  Thorn said after re-signing Robinson for the 2006-07 season, per ESPN.com. “Number two, he’s very popular with his teammates. Number three, he’s a leader in the clubhouse.”

Retirement was anything but for Robinson. He came in 14th place during the 28th edition of the reality show Survivor, accompanied Dennis Rodman on his basketball tour of North Korea in 2014, and became a medicinal cannabis advocate.

Robinson is survived by his wife Heather and son Isaiah, who played Division I basketball at Houston Baptist.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags