Matt Robles admits he wasn’t the most athletically gifted player in his day.
Most people can’t even pronounce his last name correctly (it’s Row-bleys).
What made him a standout player at Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield, California, before graduating in 2001 and becoming a four-year starter and the all-time steals leader at UC Santa Cruz, wasn’t his towering stature or flashy acrobatics.
“I always kind of fought my way to get my opportunity and tried to make the most of it,” Robles said. “You’ve got to have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, which I do. So to get to a place that kind of fits my personality was huge.”
Robles was hired as the boys basketball coach at Peninsula High School, replacing Jake Jackson, who took the same job at Sumner.
Robles coached this past season at East Bakersfield High School and before that at Garces Memorial.
He said he goes by Coach Robes — more because of that name pronunciation difficulty.
“He seemed to already possess the culture of Peninsula,” Peninsula athletic director and football coach Ross Filkins said. “We were looking for someone who had an underdog mentality — we call it the Purdy Grit. Coach Robes has his whole life really embodied the competitive spirit of constantly proving people wrong, taking care of details and hard work.”
Filkins said the school will introduce Robles at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Peninsula’s library.
So why Robles?
He spent six years as an assistant coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of Puget Sound, and one year as its head men’s and women’s golf coach. He said he had never been outside of California before that.
Robles developed connections within the community. He said UPS coach Justin Lunt was pivotal in persuading him to apply for the Peninsula opening, as was UPS assistant coach Lyle McIntosh, the former boys basketball coach at Gig Harbor.
“I wouldn’t look a lot of places for jobs,” Robles said. “But Washington was one and specifically in that area. Everyone I talked to said this is the place to be. I’m really excited about this. I can’t stress that enough.”
Robles takes over a Peninslua team that reached the state tournament for the second time in school history this past season, losing to Cleveland in the regional round of the 3A state tournament.
Peninsula will play next school year in the newly created South Sound Conference, which will include Peninsula School District rival Gig Harbor.
Robles was 10-28 in two seasons at Garces and 10-19 at East Bakersfield.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677