Correction: In the photo, Eugene Robinson is standing far left.
IRVINGTON, NJ – As the head boys’ basketball coach at Irvington High School and later at Columbia High, Eugene Robinson has experienced some top moments in the hardwood game.
But for Robinson, the ultimate thrill came in the winter of 1992-93. That season he was a key player on the IHS team that captured conference, county, and state titles, and finished with a super record of 24-2 for coach Kurt Fenchel.
Last Thursday, May 10, the 1992-93 hoops squad was inducted into the Irvington High School Hall of Fame. For Robinson, it certainly was a special day in his distinguished career in basketball.
“The year before we had a very good season, but we fell a little short of some of our goals,” said Robinson, who had great respect for such NBA standouts as Charles Barkley, Bernard King, Isiah Thomas and Maurice Cheeks. “So it was nice to have the kind of season we had in 92-93. The only real disappointment was losing in the semifinals of the TOC (Tournament of Champions) to Middle Township. We thought that we would have had a decent chance to knock off St. Anthony in the finals.”
During the magic winter of 1992-93, Robinson and fellow senior Sulaiman Abdullah were leaders for IHS. But a number of players stepped up for Irvington, including a brilliant sophomore guard named Ramadan Brunson.
“He was a heady player who could really handle the ball,” said Robinson. “We needed some of the talented underclassmen to step up, because we lost guys like Donald Moxley and Kenya Capers to graduation in the spring of 1992.”
Juniors like Terry Naylor and Tyrone Saab also stepped up for Fenchel in 1992-93.
Despite an upset loss during the regular season, Irvington was brimming with confidence heading into the Essex County Tournament. IHS toppled Belleville by 40 points in the first round, and then came up with impressive wins over East Orange and Newark East Side. In the finals, Clifford Scott battled IHS all the way, but Fenchel’s team still came up with a 66-62 triumph. The following winter, IHS also beat the Scotties in the championship game at Essex County College.
“We were successful because all of us were always in peak condition,” remarked Robinson. “The coach preached tough man-to-man defense, and on offense we were all unselfish. We weren’t concerned with individual stats.”
In the championship win over Greg Tynes’ Clifford Scott crew, Naylor paced Irvington with 14 points. Robinson and Saab each collected 12 points, and then came Abdullah with 10.
“I was glad to be part of a program that won four straight ECT titles,” said Robinson. “Different guys stepped up for us, and you have to have that if you want to be successful in this sport.
“I still enjoy being involved in the game, but I doubt I’ll experience a better season than I had in my senior year at Irvington. It’s nice that our team received the Hall of Fame honor.”
COURT NOTES – When Robinson played, the Watchung Conference was very strong… Robinson has always been a big fan of the Knicks.