Induction Year: 1997
Robert “Scotty” Robertson spent more than two decades in the NBA after 10 years as head coach at his alma mater, Louisiana Tech. Head coach of three NBA teams, including the first coach of the New Orleans Jazz, he currently serves with the Miami Heat. He was 163-91 as a prep coach in Louisiana for 12 seasons. Robertson, 165-86 as Tech’s coach, led the Bulldogs to No. 1 in the national college division rankings in the early 1970s and developed Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Mike Green. After launching the Jazz into the NBA, he became head coach in the pros with Chicago and Detroit.
Nico Van Thyn
For four decades, Robert S. Robertson — known to everyone as “Scotty” — was a successful and respected basketball coach, from high school to college to the NBA.
The coach built prominent programs at his alma maters, C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport for eight seasons (1955-63) and Louisiana Tech University for 10 years (1964-74), then moved to the NBA and remained there for some 25 years as a head coach, scout and assistant coach. “He was well ahead of his time as a coach,” said Leon Barmore, also a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame basketball coach who played guard and was co-captain of Robertson’s first conference championship team at the college level.
“He was one of the most detailed and organized coaches I’ve ever been around. And the teams he coached at Tech, they were among the most exciting to watch in the program’s history.”
At Tech, Robertson’s teams went 165-86 (.657), won three Gulf States Conference championships, achieved the No. 1 national ranking in the college division and played in two college-division (later known as Division II) NCAA postseason tournaments.
Robertson was the first coach of the expansion New Orleans Jazz in 1974-75, albeit a short stay. He was head coach of the Chicago Bulls for a brief time in 1978-79, then coach of the Detroit Pistons for three seasons (1980-82), setting in place some of the personnel for the team’s NBA championship clubs later in the decade.
He also had assistant coaching roles for the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat. He was with the Suns for the 1992-93 season when they reached the NBA Finals before losing to the Michael Jordan-led Bulls.
Among the players he coached for the Suns was Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Charles Barkley.
They remained good friends after their coaching and playing days were over, with Barkley having Robertson and wife Betty Lou as his special guests when Barkley was inducted into the Naismith shrine in 2007.
“In professional sports, few coaches really relate to players as persons,” Barkley said. “That’s just the way it is most of the time. But Scotty, he was always wanting to relate to a player and not just as a coach per se, or as one who strictly wanted to discuss basketball. He was concerned about you personally. I admired and respected him so much and loved playing for the Suns when he was there.
“Born in Fort Smith, Ark., Robertson moved to Shreveport as a sixth-grader. He played basketball and baseball at Byrd High and graduated in 1947. He attended the University of Texas, where he played baseball, then transferred to Louisiana Tech and graduated in 1951.
After a short stint as a professional baseball player, his first notable coaching job was guiding a Shreveport American Legion baseball team, the Seven-Up Bottlers, to the national tournament in 1952. That team, featuring future major league pitcher Seth Morehead, lost to a Sumter, S.C., team that included future New York Yankees second-base star Bobby Richardson.
Robertson began his basketball coaching career as the head coach at Rodessa High School, then moved to nearby Vivian High for three seasons.
He returned to his alma mater, Byrd, for the 1955-56 school year as an assistant football coach and head basketball coach. His Yellow Jackets were among the dominant powers in North Louisiana for the next eight years. His high school coaching record was 163-91 (.642).
(Simultaneously, he remained involved in pro baseball as a birddog scout for the then-Milwaukee Braves).
His 1960-61 Byrd team reached the Class AAA semifinals for the first Top Twenty state tournament, played at Shreveport’s Hirsch Youth Center. His best Byrd team perhaps was the 1962-63 team, which went 32-4 and beat eventual state champion Fair Park — Byrd’s longtime crosstown rival — in four of five meetings.
After that season, Robertson moved to Louisiana Tech as assistant to longtime coach Cecil Crowley and freshman coach, and a year later when Crowley retired from coaching, succeeded him. Robertson’s third Tech team went 20-8 overall and won the GSC title with an 11-1 record.
From 1969-70 through 1971-72, his Bulldogs had records of 17-5, 23-5 and 23-3, earned two more GSC championships and reached national prominence. They featured a three-time All-American and future NBA first-round draftee in Mike Green.
Robertson was elected to eight sports Hall of Fames.
Near the end of his life, Robertson remained involved in the game. Speaking to a classroom of potential coaches at Louisiana Tech, he told them, “Don’t make it about money. It’s an opportunity to enjoy what you do and to do some good with people.”
“He was a great ambassador for the game of basketball,” said former Grambling State University and NBA star Willis Reed — also a Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer — about Robertson after the coach’s death in August 2011. “Everybody loved him. He was a friend to so many people.”