Nov. 19, 2009
Tennessee basketball All-America and ABA great Austin "Red" Robbins died Wednesday in Metairie, La., after a three-and-a-half year battle with cancer. He was 65.
Robbins, a 1966 Helms Athletic Foundation All-America playing for legendary head coach Ray Mears, also earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors from the league's coaches. The 6-foot-9 center from Groveland, Fla., averaged 17.1 points and 12.6 rebounds as a senior in 1966 and grabbed a career high 23 rebounds against Mississippi. Robbins, who played only two seasons for the Vols, transferred from Chipola (Fla.) Junior College where he was also named Junior College All-America.
Robbins, who was tabbed in the sixth round of the 1966 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, chose a career path in the newly created American Basketball Association and played for the New Orleans Buccaneers (1967-1970), Utah Stars (1970-1972), San Diego Conquistadors (1972-1973; 1973-1974), Kentucky Colonels (1973; 1974-1975), and Virginia Squires (1975-1976).
Nicknamed for his red hair as well as his fiery personality, Robbins quickly gained a reputation as one of the toughest players in the league, grabbing more than 6,000 rebounds in his career. He was also a solid offensive contributor with above-average shooting range, and in Game 7 of the 1971 ABA Finals made 11 of 12 field goals to lead Utah to a league title.
Born Sept. 30, 1944, in Leesburg, Fla., Robbins and his wife of 39 years, Janie, made their home in Metairie, La. Since his retirement from basketball, Robbins had been a sports equipment representative for shoes and other athletic apparel.
Visitation is Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. Central time, followed by a funeral mass at Metairie's St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, 105 Bonnabel Blvd.
ABA Bucs' Austin 'Red' Robbins dies at 65
By Jimmy Smith, The Times-Picayune
Austin "Red" Robbins, a smooth and swift former center of the New Orleans Buccaneers who helped re-define the role of the pro basketball post player, died at his Metairie home early Wednesday morning after a 3 1/2-year battle with cancer.
He was 65.
Robbins, who joined the fledgling ABA and the Bucs as a rookie from Tennessee in 1967, played nine years and was a three-time participant in the league's All-Star Game. He was a starter in the first one, which was guided by New Orleans Coach James H. "Babe" McCarthy and featured fellow Buccaneers Larry Brown and Doug Moe. Robbins played briefly in Italy before joining the Bucs and was a sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1966.
"He was a great teammate, " Brown, now coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, said Wednesday night. "A wonderful guy . . . an undersized center. When Doug Moe and I were teammates, he had a phenomenal year in New Orleans. Every time I went to New Orleans, I got to see him."
At 6 feet 8 and 190 pounds, Robbins' ball-handling and shooting helped change the way professional basketball personnel people looked at big men.
"I think, as I remember, he was one of the first (big) guys who could play out there on the perimeter, " said former Hornets general manager Bob Bass, who coached the ABA's Denver Rockets in the inaugural 1967-68 season and whose team was beaten by the Buccaneers in the Western Conference semifinals. Bass coached four ABA teams.
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