Over the last nine seasons as head coach of the Fighting Camels, Robbie Laing and his staff have orchestrated a remarkable turnaround in Buies Creek that has seen the Campbell University men’s basketball program move from the bottom to the top of its league, setting school wins and attendance records in the process.
Over the past four seasons since moving into the John W. Pope Jr. Convocation Center / Gilbert Craig Gore Arena, Laing’s teams have amassed a 62-61 overall record (.504), a 42-36 conference mark (.538), stand 40-16 at home (.714), and won a league regular season title. Prior to 2011-12, no Campbell teams had ever won 62 games over a 4-year stretch since the program joined NCAA Division I in 1977-78.
During 2011-12, the Camels knocked off a BCS conference member school (Iowa) for the second-straight year, swept the two-game series from defending league regular season champ Coastal Carolina, and finished 11th in the nation in field goal percentage (.484), 15th in blocks (5.2) and 20th in assists (15.5). In addition, the team set a school record for most wins before Christmas (8) and logged the program’s 3rd-most conference (11) and regular season (17) victories of the Division I era.
Picked 9th in the 2011 Big South Conference pre-season poll, the Camels finished in 3rd place in the standings and produced double-digit wins for the 7th-straight year, a feat never before accomplished in Campbell’s Division I tenure. Trey Freeman was voted Big South freshman of the year, the second time in four seasons that one of Laing’s players has been named the league’s top newcomer.
Campbell’s 81-75 win Feb. 7, 2012 at Coastal Carolina marked Laing’s 100th coaching victory.
After guiding Campbell to a share of the 2010 Atlantic Sun regular season championship, plus school records for regular season (19) and league (14) wins, Laing was named coach of the year in voting by conference head coaches and sports information directors. He was also recognized as the District 3 Coach of the Year by the National Basketball Coaches Association and the A-Sun Coach of the Year by The Sporting News.
In 2010-11, Campbell knocked off a Southeastern Conference foe (Auburn) for the first time since 1994, played the closest game in school history against a nationally-ranked opponent and set a school Division I era record with seven victories prior Christmas before injuries de-railed another promising season.
Campbell won the 2011 Global Sports Hoops Showcase – defeating Middle Tennessee and host Auburn along the way – as Lorne Merthie was named tournament MVP and joined on the all-tourney team by Eric Griffin.
The Camels led the A-Sun and ranked 27th in the nation during 2010-11 with 5.0 blocked shots per game. CU shattered the school team (155) and individual (61 by Griffin) records for rejections in a year.
Laing is known for being able to adapt his on-court strategies with the changing personnel on his roster.
Since arriving at Campbell in 2003, his teams have been known for a high-octane, high-possession style of play, a renewed commitment to defense and taking care of the ball and shot selection at the other end of the floor. The Camels have also won by working the clock for the best shot available in half-court sets, as well as full-court pressure defense backed by shot-blocking capability at the other end.
Laing’s 2009-10 squad secured the program’s first winning season (19-11) and its highest league tournament seeding (4th) since ‘95-96 after providing the school with its first regular season title as a Division I member.
He was also named A-Sun coach of the year in 2006 by CollegeInsider.com. Laing’s 2010 recognition marked the first time the league tabbed a Campbell coach for its award since 1996.
Campbell finished the 2010 regular season with the program’s most victories since the 1994 club won 20 and set a Pope Center/Gore Arena record for average attendance (1983) for the second-straight year. Laing’s club picked up non-conference wins over East Carolina (Conference USA) and Appalachian State (Southern) and led ACC member Virginia Tech by 5 in the second half before falling to the Hokies 71-60 at Gore Arena in front of a greater-than-capacity crowd of 3205.
Laing’s club posted a 12-3 record at home, including an 8-2 mark against A-Sun competition. The team’s 6-game win streak in February marked the program’s longest victory stretch since 1996.
During 2009-10, Campbell ranked 2nd in the country in steals per game and was 13th in turnover margin in early March. Junard Hartley was named 2010 A-Sun defensive player of the year, the first time a Camel has ever been so recognized.
While Laing’s overall coaching record stands at 84-150 in eight years, over the past three seasons, the Camels stand just one victory below the .500 mark. The Fighting Camels have won more games over the last six years (79) than in any similar span at the school since the start of ‘91-92.
In 2008-09, Campbell had the most-improved league record among A-Sun members. CU’s 11 conference wins were six more than the previous club managed. From 2006-08, Campbell was ranked among the nation’s top-10 teams in scoring offense, 3-point field goals made per game and steals.
Campbell players have routinely earned all-conference honors, including four-time winner Jonathan Rodriguez, who is one of five players in Atlantic Sun Conference history to receive all-league recognition four times. Lorne Merthie was named A-Sun Freshman of the Year in 2008-09. His players have earned A-Sun All-Academic Team notice 28 times in his first eight years on the watch.
Named Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year in 2006 by CollegeInsider.com, Coach Laing’s Fighting Camels ended the year as the country’s second-highest scoring team, and only one other school among 334 NCAA Division I members boasted a greater jump in conference victories.
Laing was introduced as head coach of the Fighting Camels in April 2003 after spending two seasons at Kansas State University as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. He also served in a similar capacity at Southern Mississippi, Auburn, Clemson and Georgia Southern.
His coaching career has taken him to stops in the Big-12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Conference-USA, Sun Belt and Atlantic Sun conferences on the Division I level. He has recruited or coached six NBA players in his career, including three first-round draft choices. Among Laing’s most notable students is former Detroit Pistons head coach Michael Curry and current Georgia Southern head coach Charlton Young, both of whom Laing mentored during his stint at Georgia Southern.
In addition, he has recruited or coached six NBA players in his career, including three first-round draft choices.
Before spending the 1999-2000 season as an assistant coach at Southern Mississippi, Laing served the previous three years (1996-99) as head coach at Jones Junior College in Ellisville, Miss.
Prior to taking the head coaching position at Jones Junior College in 1996, Laing was an assistant coach under (current Coastal Carolina head coach) Cliff Ellis at Auburn, where he also directed recruiting efforts. While at Auburn, the resurgent Tiger program made a pair of NIT berths. Laing also served under Ellis for one season at Clemson, helping guide the Tigers to 18 victories in ‘93-94.
Laing spent two stints as an assistant at Georgia Southern. In his final six-year stretch at the Statesboro, Ga., school (1989-93), Laing signed 15 players who went on to earn all-conference honors.
During the 1986-87 season at Western Kentucky, he helped lead the Hilltoppers to a 29-9 record and a Sun Belt Conference championship.
A 1982 graduate of Troy State University, Laing embarked on his collegiate coaching career at his alma mater for two years, before moving on to Georgia Southern in 1984.
A standout athlete at Lakeside High School in Eufaula, Ala., Laing played football at Vanderbilt for one year before transferring to Troy State. He earned his B.S. in biology and physical education in 1982 and won two letters on the basketball team. He served as team captain during his senior year. Laing completed his M.Ed. in physical education at Georgia Southern in 1993.
Laing began his coaching career in 1981 at South Montgomery (Ala.) County Academy, where he guided his 1981-82 squad to a 14-11 record and earned district Coach of the Year honors. (5/14/12)
He and his wife, the former Dana Riales, are parents of five children, including three sons, Earl Duncan (23), Christian (22) and Nathan (18), and two daughters, Ansley Rae (16) and Madison (14).
In addition to heading up the Fighting Camel men’s basketball program, Laing serves as director of the Campbell Basketball School. Founded in 1956 by Campbell head coach Fred McCall and Wake Forest head coach “Bones” McKinney, the Campbell Basketball School is the nation’s oldest summer basketball camp in continuous operation.
Laing could just relate to me. Sometimes you meet coaches and
they just try to say what you want to hear or they say whatever is
necessary to get you interested in a school or the team or the
opportunity. He was just genuine with me from the
beginning. From my first conversation, we laughed together,
we got serious about things. It was like I could really talk
to him. He was someone I wanted to be around."
Moochie Norris, NBA guard, who played for Coach Laing at Auburn
Laing has been great to me. He was the assistant coach in
college that I had who I sort of drew the closest to and I think it
was because of his passion for coaching and his passion for
people. I always say if you want to be a good person, try to
surround yourself with good people or try to go be around good
people. I think that first and foremost, that's what drew me
near him and because of him I think I was a better person and I
think I became a better player because of him. I'm thankful
Michael Curry, Former NBA forward and former head coach of the Detroit Pistons, who played for Coach Laing at Georgia Southern.