June 22, 2002
Clemson, SC – Former Clemson basketball coach Bobby Roberts passed away Saturday morning, at his home in Aiken, SC at the age of 74. Roberts had been battling lung cancer for the past few years. He died Saturday while resting comfortably in his favorite chair at his home.
“I have only known Bobby Roberts the last five years, but it has been a very positive, memorable experience,” said Clemson Head Coach Larry Shyatt. “His ability to make everyone around him feel better separated him from many others. His contributions to Clemson basketball and the university in general were significant.”
Shyatt made an extra effort to include Roberts in recent Clemson basketball reunions. He also presented Roberts with a game ball from Clemson’s 118-115 double overtime victory over Wake Forest this past year at the Aiken IPTAY Club meeting this past spring.
Roberts came to Clemson in 1958 when he became head coach of the Clemson freshman team. He also served as an assistant under Press Maravich with the Tiger varsity. He was the top assistant when Clemson made its only appearance in the ACC Tournament championship game in 1962. He posted a 50-20 record as Clemson’s freshman coach over a four-year period (1958-59 to 1961-62) before he became the head coach of the Tiger varsity at the age of 34 in August of 1962.
There were many highlights in his Clemson coaching career, but none more memorable than during the 1966-67 season when he led the Tigers to a 17-8 record, the most wins by a Clemson team over the first 63 years of the program.
That record included a streak of seven consecutive ACC wins, a record that still stands today. During that seven-game streak, his Tigers defeated all four North Carolina schools in one week (Feb. 11-18). That included the championship of the North-South Doubleheader in Charlotte. The Tigers defeated a third-ranked North Carolina team, 92-88 to complete the sweep.
Roberts led Clemson to an 8-6 conference record in 1965-66 and a 9-5 record in 1966-67, still the only coach to lead Clemson to consecutive winning seasons in ACC play. He defeated North Carolina and Coach Dean Smith four times over an eight-game period from 1964-67, the only coach in Clemson history to defeat the Tar Heels four times in four years. Additionally, he finished his career with 14 ACC road wins, still tied for the highest career total in Clemson men’s basketball coaching history. He had an overall record of 82-116 in his eight seasons as Clemson head coach.
He recruited some of Clemson’s top players over the years, including Jim Sutherland, Clemson’s first NCAA postgraduate scholar in basketball. Sutherland was also an All-ACC player on the court. Roberts’s 1966-67 team had five ACC Academic Honor Roll Selections, still tied for the most in one season in school history.
Roberts also had a significant hand in the building of Littlejohn Coliseum, as the planning and construction of the facility was done during his watch when it opened for the 1968-69 season.
Roberts was born in Laurens, SC on December 19, 1927. He grew up in Pelzer and graduated from Welcome High School in Greenville. He graduated from Mars Hill Junior College in 1951, then graduated from Furman University in 1953. He lettered two years in baseball and two years in basketball at Furman.
Roberts is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Bobbie Ann, his son Mike and daughter Lessie.
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